ORONO, Maine — A new coaching staff didn’t change the end result for Husson University’s golf team as the Eagles won their fourth straight North Atlantic Conference title at Penobscot Valley Country Club Monday afternoon.
The Eagles — coached jointly by former Husson golfers Ed Meo and Jason Harvey — not only won it, but made it look easy despite blustery, chilly conditions that sometimes played havoc with tee shots and strategy.
Husson scored a two-day, 36-hole team total score of 604 to win by 40 strokes over runner-up Castleton State College.
“That’s a program that’s been good a long time and they attract good kids,” said Castleton State coach Butch Paul. “Even with a coaching change, they have a good program and kids know it’s a nice place to go.”
Perhaps it was the Winslow High School influence that also helped as junior Kevin Byrne ran away with medalist honors by carding a second-day, even-par score of 72 to follow Sunday’s 70.
“These kids, especially this Byrne kid, can really play,” said Paul. “The game is so mental, and they handled the wind and the cold and didn’t let it affect them too much.”
Sophomore and fellow former Black Raider Matt Loubier followed up Sunday’s 76 with an 81.
Their efforts netted Byrne and Loubier NAC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors, respectively.
“I didn’t really putt well today, but I just tried to grind right through every shot,” said Byrne. “I did hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. Yesterday, I didn’t hit as many, but I putted well.
“It got worse the last three holes, but I hit 15 of 15 greens to start. Yesterday was a little more exciting because I birdied four of the last five holes.”
Throw in a 148 (71 and 77) by junior Mike Hersey of Presque Isle and a 158 (79 and 79) by senior John Ellis of Belfast, and the Eagles ran away from the rest of the seven-team field. Senior Ben Estabrook of Bangor shot 80’s both days, but as good as they were, his scores weren’t used as only the top four from each team were utilized.
“I think the big thing is our consistency, one through five,” said Harvey. “When one guy struggles, someone else is picking them up.”
This time around, however, none of Husson’s players really struggled in the two-day tourney. Four of the top five, and five of the top seven golfers were from Husson.
“Our scores are slightly higher today, but I think the weather is taking its toll on us,” said Meo. “It’s been tough, but I was very pleased with the way they played, surprised even. I didn’t expect to see many people break 80 yesterday.
“Kevin really performed well. Any time you go 2 under, especially in this stuff, that’s surprisingly good.”
The win qualified Husson for the NCAA Division III National Tournament in Hershey, Penn., next May, but next up for the Eagles is the New England Championship Tournament at Cape Cod next Monday and Tuesday.
“We’ll probably see the same conditions down [at] the Cape, so this is good for us,” Meo said. “They did what they needed to do. They grind their way through every hole and they just don’t quit.”
Both Byrne and Loubier credited the help of both coaches along with PVCC pros John Murray and Chad Curley.
“I just put a lot of time into it, extra hours after practice and really improving my swing,” he said. “I think I’ve improved most around the greens with my chipping and putting.”
Hersey finished with the second-best individual score while 2008 medalist Michael Krahn of Castleton finished at 155 after shooting a 74 Sunday and an 81 Monday.