The Maine State Golf Association started its annual match play tournament just three years ago, but it’s caught on among the state’s top amateurs.

After being held the first two years at the Augusta Country Club, the three-day tournament this year moves to Fox Ridge in Auburn and begins today. The field of 32 includes this year’s Maine Amateur champ, Ricky Jones of Thomaston, 2010 winner Joe Alvarez of Penobscot Valley and 13-time Maine Amateur champ Mark Plummer of Manchester.

Notable in their absence are Pittston’s Ryan Gay, who won the tournament in 2011, and last year’s winner Johnny Hayes of Cape Elizabeth. Gay has since turned pro while Hayes is not entered.  Plummer, who has won just about every tournament offered by the MSGA, finished second to Alvarez in 2010. Plummer warmed up for the tournament so to speak by winning his 35th Augusta Country Club championship on Sunday, an event also determined by match play rather than stroke play. He likes the idea that one bad hole can’t ruin his whole round.

“It’s just a lot looser format,” Plummer said. “You’re playing against the other guy. Your whole strategy changes. You’re playing the player instead of the golf course.”

Fox Ridge measures 6,814 yards from the back tees and has played host to three Maine Opens. The course is fairly tight with undulating greens. The Par 3 fifth measures 202 yards from the back tees to an island green and is the course’s signature hole.

“It’s a good match play golf course,” Plummer said. “In match play you hit it in the water and you lose the whole. In stroke play it can ruin your whole round.”

The players are selected based on points accumulated throughout the season in both MSGA weekly events and tournament. Jones is seeded first followed by Portland’s Jack Wyman and Plummer, a regular competitor in weekly events.

“It’s fun and I like the competition,” Plummer said.

The field will be whittled to eight players after the first day. Last year, Alvarez needed 45 holes to dispatch his first two opponents. Day 2 also requires players to play 36 holes in order to advance to the finals.

Other locals entered include former Cony High School standout Scott Sirois who plays out of the Woodlands, Maranacook senior Luke Ruffing and Waterville Country Club member Denver Jalette.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
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