AUBURN — Andrew Slattery sipped a glass of water and slumped in his chair. But who could blame him? Slattery’s semifinal match against Joe Walp in the Match Play Invitational went overtime, and when Slattery birdied hole two — the 20th hole of the round — it not only gave him the win, it was Slattery’s first lead of the match at Martindale Country Club, his home course.

The win vaulted Slattery, the No. 8 seed, into Thursday’s championship round against No. 10 Jeff Cole of Sable Oaks. Cole, the runner-up in last year’s Match Play Invitational, defeated Luke Ruffing of Belgrade Lakes in the semis, 6 and 4. Slattery and Cole will tee off at 7 a.m. for the title.

Asked to describe what went through his mind as the match with Walp progressed, Slattery didn’t hesitate.

“Hanging on for dear life,” Slattery said. “Absolutely.”

On the 20th and deciding hole, both Slattery and Walp hooked their tee shots left, just off the fairway. While Walp’s next shot gave him a tough 30 foot birdie putt, Slattery placed himself in good shape, 10 feet from the pin. When Walp’s putt was short, Slattery sank his for the win.

“I hooked my drive a little bit, but luckily you can get away with it there. I thought I (hit) my wedge way out right, but it just kind of hung on there. I had a good look,” Slattery said.

Walp birdied hole four to go 1 up on Slattery, who even the match with a birdie on hole seven. Walp’s par putt on 10 gave him a 1 up lead again, but Slattery tied the match with par on 14.

“You knew it was going to be a fun match. He’s been playing pretty well. I was starting to get it together. It was close the whole way through,” Walp, the Match Play Invitational runner-up in 2013, said.

Both Walp and Slattery overshot the green on 18, but Walp had a chance to win the hole and the match with an eight-foot putt. Walp’s putt was just short, sending the pair to sudden death holes. Both birdied hole one, setting up Slattery’s win on two.

“That (putt on 18) was a little frustrating. I hit a good shot. I left myself in an awful spot, but got away with it,” Walp said.

In the other semifinal match, Cole cruised. Cole never trailed in the match, and never lost a hole, winning with a par on hole 14.

“I hit the driver really well in both matches. I really tried to hit fairways and greens, that’s so important in match play. The driver felt good, the irons felt good. I putted pretty well,” Cole said.

Cole set the tone for the match when he nearly eagled hole two. Ruffing’s second shot sailed over the green, and he conceded the hole. A par on hole three and a birdie on hole five put Cole 3 up on the front nine.

“The second hole, I almost holed out for two. That felt good. That jump-started me a little bit. I thought it was going to go in,” Cole said.

After winning his quarterfinal match 6 and 4 over Brian Angis, Ruffing struggled against Cole. Often, Ruffing spent the time walking to his next shot yelling at himself.

“This morning I had my ball striking going. I was able to control it, put the ball in play. This afternoon, I couldn’t hit the ball at all. I chunked four or five… All the good luck I was using the first three rounds just went away,” Ruffing said. “It’s just kind of embarrassing, not being able to hit the ball at this level. I was just frustrated with myself, mostly. Jeff played great. I couldn’t keep up with him.”

None of Wednesday’s four quarterfinal matches were particularly close. None went more than 16 holes. Slattery dispatched Johnny Hayes IV, who won last month’s Maine Amateur title, 3 and 2. Slattery was 4 up through 10 holes before Hayes rallied to cut the deficit to 2 up through 13. Slattery won hole 14, and the pair split 15 and 16 to end the match.

“Playing Johnny and Joe (in one day) takes a lot out of you. They’re both excellent players. Either one of them could win any golf tournament they’re in,” Slattery said. “Luckily, I made a couple birdies early on the front nine. I got a nice lead, and (Hayes) started rolling well out back.”

Cole beat 2013 match play champ Matt Greanleaf, 4 and 2, in the quarterfinals. Cole won holes 14-16 to clinch the match. Walp defeated Sam Grindle in the quarterfinals, 5 and 3. With the match all square through 10 holes, Walp won five consecutive holes to end the match.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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