Tiger golfers overcome obstacles

3 years ago

by Kevin Sjoberg, Special to The Star-Herald

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Noah Bernard has fond memories of his high school days as a golfer for the Fort Fairfield Tigers, especially with the success the team experienced.

Now, the third-year coach of the Tigers is looking to bring those winning ways back.

“When I played, we won the County’s four years in a row, so the golf tradition here is very cool,” said Bernard, a 2014 graduate, “and I would like to start the county championship tradition over.”

The Tigers did earn Aroostook County bragging rights in his first season as coach in 2019, but last year finished behind Madawaska and Central Aroostook for league honors and as a result did not qualify for the states.

The last two seasons have been difficult for Fort Fairfield. Due to COVID, the team’s home course — Aroostook Valley Country Club — has been unavailable. As a result, all the matches are road matches. Last year, the Tigers practiced at nearby Presque Isle Country Club and this year they have been able to hold practice sessions at Limestone Country Club.

“It’s tough because we are playing two or three different courses each week with different layouts and speeds on the green,” Bernard said. 

Fort Fairfield’s top golfer is a freshman. Michael Bruce averages 41 strokes for nine holes and has been competing in the sport since a very young age.

“I could not wait to get him on the team,” Bernard said. “He has a smooth swing and very good course knowledge, and that comes with all his time spent at the course during the summer learning new things.”

Senior Chase Coiley, the top returnee for the Tigers, is right behind Bruce, averaging a 42. As a sophomore, Coiley posted a 78 at the County championships to earn medalist honors. The following season, he averaged 41 strokes per match.

“Chase also has a very good swing,” Bernard said. “He can get into trouble [on the course], but makes up for it by knowing where to place his next shot to save strokes.”

Senior Jonah Bernard, like Bruce and Coiley, is capable of qualifying for the state meet as an individual and to do that, would have to shoot a 90 or better [for 18 holes] at Thursday’s Aroostook League Championship being held at Mars Hill Country Club. 

But tops on Coach Bernard’s wish list are posting the lowest team score Thursday to claim the County title and shooting 400 or better in the process, which would allow the team to advance to the state championship at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro Oct. 9.

“I believe my golfers are talented enough and they have proved to me that they can play well enough to do that,” he said.

Junior Blake Senal and freshman Brett Senal, who both average in the low- to mid-50s, are the other members of the Tiger squad.