Andrew Slattery of West Minot didn’t start playing golf until he was 14 and admits he wasn’t a very good player at Poland Regional High School.

How things have changed for Slattery, 25, who works in the pro shop at Martindale Country Club in Auburn. A one-under par 71 in the second round of the 95th Maine Amateur Golf Championship Wednesday at The Woodlands Club propelled Slattery into a one-shot lead heading into Thursday’s final round.

Slattery opened with a 72 on Tuesday and stands at one under 143. Matt Greenleaf of Portland is a shot back after rounds of 71-73-144. Joe Walp, also of Portland, is third at 145. Walp, the first round co-leader with Drew Powell of Bangor with 70s, shot a 75. Powell, 16, had a 78.

“This is a brand new adventure for me,” said Slattery about being in the lead of a major state tournament.

“I won’t look at the tee times until tomorrow morning,” he said, feigning nervousness.

Three years ago, Slattery was in the third to last group of the final day in this tournament at the Portland Country Club.

“I got to play with Ricky Jones, but I didn’t play that well. I just kept it in play today. As my round was unfolding, I thought 71 would be a good score on a course like this and under these conditions. I like courses that make you hit great shots. The greens are tricky,” he said.

Golfers had to contend with a steady breeze and a firmer course than in the opening round.

“The course played tougher today,” said Greenleaf.

“It’s a fun, strong course,” he said.

Slattery had three birdies and two bogeys. He made a 10-footer for birdie on the par-5 sixth. He added birdies on Nos. 11 and 16 and had bogeys on seven and 10.

After high school, Slattery started working seriously on his game.

“I hit a lot of practice shots and played a lot of rounds,” he said.

Defending champion Ricky Jones of Thomaston was two shots better than his opening round, but still gave away shots down the stretch.

In the first round, Jones, a three-time champion, bogeyed three of his last four holes and Wednesday bogeyed the last two. Jones is at 148 after rounds of 75-73 and well within striking distance for a possible fourth state amateur.

“Hopefully, I’ll make pars on those holes tomorrow. I had a lot of putts that just missed. I just couldn’t get up and down from the fringe on 18. I hit the driver more than in the first round. At times, the wind was swirling and at other times, it wasn’t. It was hard to figure,” said Jones.

The highlight of his round was a eagle 3 on the par-5, 11th.

“I had 82 yards in and I knocked it in with a 60 degree wedge,” he said.

Joe Baker of Oxford was alone at 149 as was former champion Eric Crouse of South Portland at 150. Three players are at 151 – Jason Gall of Cumberland, Scott Stone of North Yarmouth and Joe Alvarez of North Berwick.

The final pairing of Slattery, Greenleaf and Walp offers some storylines. Greenleaf, 32, beat Walp in the state match play championship last summer. Slattery and Greenleaf currently rank second and third in Maine State Golf Association points behind leader Ricky Jones. The Maine Amateur champion and the next two ranked players in points get to represent Maine at the United States Golf Association State Team Championship. Players earn season long points based on performances in championships events and other MSGA sponsored events.

“I played in the national state team championship and it’s a lot of fun,” said Greenleaf.

Slattery and Greenleaf are leading players in the weekly state amateur tournaments run by the MSGA. They have their own foursomes in those weekly tournaments and they feed off each other.

Both have also been members of the Maine team that has won two straight Tri-State matches against New Hampshire and Vermont. Up until tomorrow, that’s the biggest thing Slattery has played for.

“This is what you play for,” said Greenleaf about having a chance to win the Maine Amateur.

Greenleaf had a scrambling round in which he got up and down for pars on several holes. Greenleaf has yet to hit a driver on the par 4s and 5s.

“I made an up and down from 89 yards out on the third hole which was huge,” he said.

Walp, a junior at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., overcame a less than stellar ball striking round by having a hot putter for the second straight day.

“I hit some pretty awful shots, but my putting was still strong,” he said.

“I didn’t really think about being tied for the lead going into the second round. I just played my game and will do the same thing in the final round,” said Walp.

The 36-hole cut fell at 160.


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