VASSALBORO — Now in its third year, the Maine State Golf Association’s Match Play Invitational leaves the Augusta Country Club, but it’s not going far.

The three-day tournament, which starts today, will be held on the Natanis Golf Course Tomahawk Course.

“I haven’t played that course since high school,” Ryan Gay, a Gardiner Area High School graduate and three-time Maine Amateur champ, said. “I think it will be set up for some good risk/reward play.”

Thirty-two players are invited to the tournament. The top 16 finishers at the Maine Amateur Championship are invited, and the rest of the field is comprised of the MSGA point leaders.

Golfers will compete in two rounds today and two rounds Thursday before Friday’s championship match.

Maine Amateur winner Seth Sweet, who heads to Old Dominion University next week, elected not to play in the Match Play Invitational. J.J. Harris of Bath, who finished tied for second at the Maine Amateur with Rockland’s Ricky Jones, also will not play, making Jones the top seed. Jones will tee off against Matthew Loubier of the Waterville Country Club in today’s first match at 7 a.m.

In match play, the object is to beat your opponent at each hole, not shoot the low score.

“In match play, you have the chance to take more risks, to be more aggressive,” Jason Gall of Augusta Country Club said. Gall, the No. 7 seed, will face Erik Fitch of Kebo Valley Golf Club in the first round. “I also think a lot of what you do depends on your opponent.”

The Tomahawk course is unfamiliar to Gall.

“I’ve never played the whole thing,” Gall said.

Gay is the defending Match Play Invitational champion. Gay defeated Matt Greenleaf 3 and 2 to win last year’s title. The No. 15 seed, Gay will face No. 18 Jack Wyman in the first round. For Gay, this tournament will be an opportunity to see recent work on his swing in action.

Gay, who recently transferred to St. John’s University from the University of New Mexico, said his coaches in New Mexico changed his swing, and not for the better.

“My swing felt awful all summer long, with every tournament I played,” Gay said.

Gay has worked with coach Paul Piveronas at The Woodlands Club to rebuild his swing. Gay was surprised when he saw on video how bad his swing had become.

“It was almost like, ‘Who is that guy?’ ” Gay said. “I’m really changing it around. I’m excited to play and see how it holds up under pressure in a tournament atmosphere.”

Joe Alvarez, the 2010 match play winner, is the No. 16 seed and faces No. 17 Mike Doran.

Winslow native Kevin Byrne, of the Waterville Country Club, is ranked No. 28 and will play against Greenleaf, last year’s runner-up, in the first round. No. 30 Chris Hamel, a Waterville native whose home course is Natanis, will play No. 3 Johnny Hayes IV.

Augusta’s Mark Plummer, a 13-time winner of the Maine Amateur, is the No. 9 seed and will face No. 24 Ashley Fifield of Sable Oaks.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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