BRUNSWICK – Most members of the Brunswick Golf Club know that the Volkswagen Jetta is on site at every stop.
It can be early in the morning, late in the evening, or anytime in between. Caleb Manuel’s car will be parked there in the club master’s square.
And he will work.
“Morning, noon and night, I am not surprised when it is the first car in the parking lot,” said Brunswick Golf Director AJ Kavanaugh. “… (And) if there is enough daylight to see your golf ball, Caleb will most likely be here.”
The state knows Manuel, 19, for his results. In Braunschweig he is known for his work ethic. Manuel wrote another great summer, one that included his first Maine Amateur Championship, a runner-up in the New England Amateur, and qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour in Falmouth in early July.
Behind these results are long hours on the course, long hours on the driving range and often longer hours on the putting green as Manuel spends almost every day improving every aspect of his game.
“I live here most of the summer,” said Manuel. “You get out of the game what you’ve put into it. … The reason I do this is to keep my game sharp, but I wouldn’t play the game if I wasn’t having fun. “
For Manuel, work means success. And success is fun.
“You get that feeling and you say, ‘Man, I love that feeling,'” he said. “To get that feeling, you have to work hard and hopefully get back to that point and win bigger.”
“I think in the beginning when he was a freshman or a sophomore or middle school student and he was doing it, people thought ‘he’s here all the time,'” added Kavanaugh. “Now they’re just kind of inspired by it. It’s something they expect. “
Manuel loves to play. In the rounds, he said, he learns what to work on, and he usually plays 18 to 36 holes in a day with everyone from close friends to complete strangers.
“He doesn’t have a select group of guys he always has to play golf with,” said Kavanaugh. “He will play with absolutely everyone. He has been making our members say ‘Sure, I’ll go golf with you’ for a few days and years. And it’s so nice to see someone so good. “
However, Manuel differs from other avid golfers through his detailed and extensive practice routines.
“A big part of practicing is that you have to do it with a goal in mind. You can’t just hit one ball at a time and expect it to get better somehow, ”he said. “You kind of have to work on things while you’re out there.”
To achieve this, Manuel uses a variety of tools while practicing. He uses a device to draw chalk lines on the green to aid his putting line. He will stand over a mirror while putting to aid his alignment and position over the ball, and he will use alignment sticks and sometimes a TrackMan simulator on the range to get a better feel for his ball flight.
Manuel likes to use the range. But he prefers to devote the most attention to his short game.
“I do the same thing almost every day,” he says. “I use this chalk line and I will probably hit 25, 50 putts. Sometimes I use a hand, see how Tiger does that. Then I do 25 four feet with various breaks. … I’ll hit a couple of eight feet, I have to hit six out of eight. And then I do a couple of lag puttings, I have to put eight 40-footers two in a row. “
Manuel the player generated the headlines. Manuel the practitioner generates the stories in McAvoy’s, Brunswick’s clubhouse restaurant. Allan Greenleaf, the club superintendent, remembers going to the board of directors and asking for more sand for the practice facility bunker. Manuel had blown too much of it.
“They looked at me like I was crazy,” said Greenleaf. “I said, ‘Yes, Caleb will do that. It’s just in there; he uses the practice bunker all the time. ‘”
Another time Greenleaf remembered driving past the practice green and seeing Manuel standing five feet long on a towel.
“Two days later I saw him and asked him what’s the trick with standing on a towel?” He said. “He said, ‘I didn’t mean to mark your green.’ He’s in the same spot hitting five-foot putts and he didn’t want to put any studs in the green. “
Greenleaf had more anecdotes. The times Manuel drove to the golf course before going to Mt. Ararat when high school started late. And the pouring rain kept everyone at home except for Manuel and a friend who held an umbrella that Manuel could stand under when setting up.
“He’s undoubtedly training more than anyone at the club,” said Greenleaf. “He loves the game. It’s what he’s doing. We’re kidding him, but it’s really impressive. “
Manuel’s practice habits have also had an impact on the other, especially younger, Braunschweig golfers. Kavanaugh called it the “Caleb Factor”.
“There are small children … they have seen it here on the golf course and do it themselves,” he said. “He in this club is the reason these kids do these things. They don’t because they saw Rickie Fowler doing it. They do it because they saw Caleb here before their eyes. “
Not every day is fun. Manuel will have what his trainer at the University of Connecticut calls “grind days,” where he goes to class just to do hours of practice.
“Some days you have to put gambling aside,” he said. “I’ve definitely had a few days like this out here where I just plug in headphones and get to work.”
Some around him worry about burnout, and that dampens his enthusiasm for the game. Manuel doesn’t. He said he was saving a lot of time on friends and other activities to break the pattern, an example being a recent fishing trip when he saw the weather worsen.
However, when it became clear, the urge to return to course returned.
“You must be kind of hungry for more,” he said. “I definitely have the golf virus. I think I always have. “
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