PORTLAND, Maine — Topsham and Brunswick have a well-documented "Battle of the Bridge" sports rivalry, but many people in those towns and surrounding ones will be rooting for the same golfer at the U.S. Open next weekend.
Caleb Manuel, 20, a graduate of Topsham's Mt. Ararat High School who calls Brunswick Golf Club his home course, qualified for the tournament by shooting a 3-under 137 across 36 holes in a tournament in Harrison, New York on Monday.
Monday's tournament, one of several U.S. Open qualifiers across the country, involved two 18-hole rounds played at two different golf courses. Manuel shot a 1-under 69 at Old Oaks Country Club in his first round and then a 2-under 68 at Century Country Club in his final round for a combined 3-under on the day, good enough to tie for the top spot in the qualifier.
This year's U.S. Open, one of golf's four major championships, is being held June 16-19 at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Manuel, who just finished his sophomore year at the University of Connecticut, won the Big East's Individual Championship last month. He's also the defending Maine Amateur champion and was named Maine Golf Player of the Year in 2020 and 2021.
While playing in high school for Mt. Ararat, he won back-to-back Class A state titles in 2018 and 2019. Last year, NEWS CENTER Maine told the story of Manuel and the bond he shares with three of his closest high school teammates, all of whom went on to play collegiate golf. Click here to read and watch that story.
Manuel's dad caddied for him in New York on Monday and was right there with him when he qualified.
"It means a lot just kind of having his presence out there. Not so much the golf piece, but just kind of like the dad piece and spending time with him the whole day," Manuel said Tuesday. "You don't get to do that as much at 20 years old, so it's good there."
The crowd in Brookline will be the largest he has ever played in front of, and he's never played the course before. He plans to stay in the zone and not get caught up in what the crowd is doing during the competition. He also said not having played the course is not out of the ordinary for him.
"A lot of these tournaments I go to, I haven't played the course before other than the practice rounds," Manuel said, adding that he's trying to find a caddie for the tournament who knows both the course and his individual style of play.
One of the first places Manuel went after qualifying Monday was Brunswick Golf Club. Friends and coaches were there to congratulate him Tuesday morning, and the clubhouse will be buzzing come U.S. Open weekend.
"I'm definitely going to try to get a [Brunswick Golf Club] logo in there or two," Manuel said with a smile. "It's really cool. It's like a second home to me. Greg asked me where I spend most of my time in the summer and that's where it is. It's my favorite place. I probably won't leave that place unless I play professional golf and I have to go somewhere else, but it will always be home for me."
After the U.S. Open, Manuel plans to play in the Live and Work in Maine Open at Falmouth Country Club, which begins Thursday, June 23.