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For these four golfers, their bond is bigger than birdies and bogeys

Caleb Manuel, Cade Charron, Will Kavanagh, and Cam Cox may have had success on the course in high school, but they're just happy to have experienced it together

BRUNSWICK, Maine — A few things are certain when you pull into a golf course during a beautiful spring or summer evening. First, the sunset provides a somewhat peaceful backdrop for golfers as they finish their afternoon round or enjoy dinner on the patio.

You'll also notice folks working on their short game around the putting green, and you'll find workers cleaning the carts ahead of the next day.

During those evening hours at Brunswick Golf Club, it's hard not to be on the property without running into the same 'foursome.'

“It’s really special to have that group of young men really want to be together all the time," Mt. Ararat High School golf coach Gerry Caron said. In addition to entering his seventh year as MTA golf coach, Caron is also the golf instructor at Brunswick Golf Club.

Behind the ninth hole, Caron spent a few minutes talking about four special players who call Brunswick Golf Club home. Caron also knows them as his former players.

If you follow Maine golf, the four players Caron referenced will sound familiar. Cade Charron, Caleb Manuel, Cameron Cox, and Will Kavanaugh helped turn the team around within the last few years.

But before these four Eagles tee'd it up in high school, their friendship was already forming.

“It goes way back," Kavanaugh said. 

“I have a hard time putting words on what exactly keeps us together," Cox added.

“This bond is something that is so much more than golf," Charron said

While the bond stretches beyond the game of golf, it sure centers on it. All four friends have worked or currently work at Brunswick Golf Club. In fact, Manuel was on duty during our interview and had to quickly return to his cart-washing responsibilities after the camera was turned off.

Whether it was around school, on the bus ride to matches, or practicing and working at Brunswick, Caron saw these four a lot.

“This golf course is a big part of our team and its management," he said. “Outside of golf, in school, and at this golf course they are highly respected young men.”

Credit: NCM

While Caron says their character exceeds their golf abilities, he was quick to note that they're pretty good at putting the ball in the hole too.

All four play college golf. Kavanaugh and Charron are teammates at Husson University. After taking a semester to weigh his options, Kavanaugh felt heading to Bangor was the best fit for his education and golf career.

“I was tired of being home all the time," he said. “I was just very comfortable going to Husson too, it wasn’t very far and one of my best friends [Charron] is there.”

Cox is at Western New England studying civil engineering. He admitted he won't be playing much golf this summer as he is working a full-time construction job as a program manager

“I knew I wanted to focus towards my education going to college," he said.

Manuel tees it up for Division I UConn and helped win the program's first Big East Championship in 27 years this season. All four friends played in their respective NCAA Regional tournaments this spring as well.

But before making it to the collegiate ranks, this foursome helped turn around the Mt. Ararat program. They say the change began with the captain and the oldest, Cam Cox.

“[Cox] was just a great leader, a good golfer, and knew exactly what he needed to do for all of us," Kavanaugh said.

After helping Kavanaugh and Charron through their first year, the Eagles were close to reaching the next level and competing at the state tournament. Caron and his team knew they had an impressive player entering high school. And Manuel couldn't wait to join the roster

“Even in like seventh and eighth grade I was asking coach Caron if I could come practice with the guys," he said.

When Manuel made the team, Cox said it was like like a flip had switched.

“Once [Manuel] got here, we started to take it a little bit more seriously," he added.

Credit: NCM

Instead of being a non-competitive program, the roster had top-tier talent from the number one player to the number six and was ready to make a run at a championship.

What made Manuel and the other three so impressive, Caron said, was their work ethic and practice routine.

“A lot of people put time in, but they don’t have the gift that [Manuel has] and they want to be like [Manuel]," he added. “A lot of kids were good that we played against, but they were really special.”

In golf, high school matches are set in order of a player's ranking on their team. The number one and number two golfers from each school play against each other, same with the three and four and so on. The team's score is totaled are added at the end of the round.

So, having a clear number one and number two player is important and when Manuel and Cox were playing together there was no fight or discussion on who the top player would be.

“Every other senior I know would have been like, 'I’ve been here longer I want to play 1-man,' but [Cox] just did what was better for the team," Manuel said.

The move was not surprising to Caron or the other three, and they all praised Cox's leadership for knowing it was best for the team.

Now that the lineup was squared away, it was time to win golf matches and the Eagles won a lot.

“We knew going to a match, we were favored to win the match. Sometimes that’s great, sometimes it adds a little bit more pressure," Caron said.

Unfortunately for Cox, the Eagles fell short in the state tournament his senior year in what they said was a controversial tie break. Even though he graduated, he knew the team was in great hands.

Flashforward to 2018, Kavanaugh, Charron, and Manuel are playing at Brunswick like any other fall evening, but this wasn't a regular round. The three were getting ready for another state tournament round, and Manuel said Kavanaugh was feeling a little nervous.

Credit: NCM

"Will, you’re fine dude, just go out and play," Kavanaugh heard from his friends the night before the biggest round of the year.

Luckily for Mt. Ararat, the big three did show up on the biggest stage. Each of the three friends shot in the 70s that round. Manuel said that's always tough to beat in Maine and it was.

None were happier, these three said, than coach Caron. 

“[It was] probably the biggest smile I’ve seen on his face when he found out that we won," Charron said.

Kavanaugh added he focused so hard on reading putts that day that he told his parents he wouldn't be able to focus on school for the rest of the year. 

But the focus and the winning didn't stop there as Mt. Ararat went back-to-back, winning the state championship in 2019. Caron's team went on to win 37 straight matches.

“It was a special time," he said.

“What made it so fun was winning, winning is a lot of fun," Manuel added.

But winning golf matches and state tournaments is not why these four remain friends, two years after they last played a match together in high school.

They'll tell you they don't know why they're still so close, but Caron will tell you maybe it's because they all share the same character values.

“They just climbed up the ladder and became those people that everybody wanted to be," he said.

Caron added they also went through the highs and lows on the course and off it as one group.

“I have to really emphasize that together part. They enjoyed each other, they have a gift, they’re gifted kids," he said.

After a few putts on the putting green, Manuel returned to cart-washing and Charron prepared to head home after opening up the pro shop that day, while Kavanaugh and Cox walked to the back nine to play a few holes.

Although they might be apart for a day or so this summer, or apart for a few weeks during the school year, Cox said they'll always have a home at Brunswick Golf Club.

 

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