Caleb Manuel Named Player of the Year
Despite a golf landscape that at times felt very unfamiliar this year due to the coronavirus, the caliber of play in the Pine Tree State was superb in 2020. After a delayed start to the season, the MSGA began running tournaments for Maine’s golfers starting on June 1. After a full schedule of one day events and a plethora of exciting championship events crowning state champions, three players have earned the title of Player of the Year in their respective categories. We will highlight these players this week for their accomplishments.
2020 Dr. Leonardo Buck Player of the Year: CALEB MANUEL
The MSGA is pleased to announce Caleb Manuel as the recipient of the 2020 Dr. Leonardo Buck Player of the Year, an annual accolade bestowed by the Maine State Golf Association to the player who accrues the most points in a year-long competition among all of its tournaments. The Player of the Year race began on August 1, 2019 and ran through the end of July 2020. Points are available at all MSGA weekly, mid-week and championship tournaments, along with certain regional championships, with points awarded based on a combination of the field size and the importance of the event.
This is the first time that Manuel has won the award. “It’s pretty special,” explains the 18-year old who plays out of Brunswick Golf Club. “To have played well all year and get points in these tournaments and beat some of the guys that I did feels good.”
Manuel earned a lot of Player of the Year points with a 4th place finish at the 2020 Maine Amateur Championship, a 3rd place finish at the New England Amateur Championship, and a runner-up finish at the 2019 Match Play Invitational. He also won two MSGA Play Days along the way (65 at Natanis, 63 at Brunswick) to barely eke out Player of the Year honors over John Hayes.
Though he didn’t receive any points for the tournament, Manuel hit the most remarkable shot of the MSGA season—if not across the country—in the final round of the Maine Junior Championship. Coming to the final hole at Gorham CC tied for the lead in his last year of eligibility in the Junior, and with his opponent already on the par-5 18th in two, he holed out for a walk-off albatross to win the tournament.
“I had 193 out of the right rough and I still remember it like it was yesterday,” he says about the once-in-a-lifetime shot to win the Junior Championship.
“I could tell it was kind of a jumper and I had a little bit of adrenaline going, so I decided to hit the six-iron, which is a pretty big six for me. It landed in the front of the green and rolled in like a putt and it was just the best feeling in the world just to watch it go in, because I was never leading that golf tournament until that last shot.”
In addition to his success in MSGA events, Manuel also shot a 59 from the back tees at Brunswick GC earlier this season to shatter the longstanding course record. The round at his home club included a stretch of nine birdies in a row on holes 7 through 15, followed by a chip-in eagle on 16 to get -13 on the day. He parred the last two holes to shoot golf’s magic number.
The Topsham resident and Mt. Ararat graduate is currently a freshman at the University of Connecticut, where he will play golf on a scholarship. The team has not competed yet in his first year at school because their fall season was cancelled due to COVID-19. He has been taking classes online, but plans to head to school in January and work with the team and is hopeful there will be a spring golf season. “I hope to make the top five on the team and play in as many tournaments as I can and maybe get a college win under my belt in the first year.”