AUBURN — To say the Match Play Invitational had not been kind to Andrew Slattery the previous times in which he’d played the tournament would be putting it mildly. Five times Slattery had entered the tournament, and five times it spit him out on the first day.

The sixth time, though, Slattery was magnificent. When the Match Play Invitational ended on Thursday morning at his home course, Martindale Country Club, Slattery was the last man standing.

Slattery’s 14-foot birdie putt on hole 17 gave him a 2 and 1 win over Jeff Cole. Slattery, who won the Maine Amateur title in 2014, is the sixth match play champion crowned in the six years of the tournament.

“I’ve never even made it to Wednesday before, so coming into it, I wasn’t extremely confident. I never have been coming into this tournament. I kind of just changed the way I thought about it,” Slattery, 26, said. “It’s tough when you’re playing your buddies. It’s tough to beat them. I kind of went in with the mindset of putting that behind me. You’ve got to go out and someone’s got to win. It might as well be me.”

Slattery and Cole were all square through nine holes. Slattery won holes 11 and 12 to go 2 up, and while Cole took hole 16 to cut Slattery’s lead, the match went just one more hole, ending when Slattery made his birdie putt on the par 3, 172-yard 17th.

“It was kind of a strange putt. I was all jacked up, adrenaline’s going. I tried to hammer it in the back,” Slattery said. “I just hit it firm on a line, didn’t play a lot of break, hoping to see it disappear.”

Neither Slattery nor Cole putted well for much of the match. The struggles on the green became Cole’s downfall.

“The putter under pressure left me today. It just wasn’t there. I was trying. I mean, I hit the ball pretty good. I only missed one green. I had opportunities,” Cole said.

It started on the first hole. Although Cole won the hole, he lipped out a bird putt. That became a match-long trend for Cole, who finished runner-up in the Match Play Invitational for the second straight year.

“You kind of remember it after it gets going. That one good swing early can change it, change your whole approach all day. You can’t three-putt. You just can’t three-putt against anybody in this field, especially Andrew. You can’t give up shots like that,” Cole said.

Missed putts on 12 and 13 essentially put the tournament in Slattery’s hand. Although Cole sank a long birdie putt on 16 to cut Slattery’s lead to 1 up (“I 100 percent told myself, do not leave this putt short,” Cole said), he knew he had missed his chance a few holes earlier.

“I needed to make the putt on 12. I had it read, I thought it was going to move just a fraction right, and it stayed absolutely straight and lipped out again,” Cole said.

Heavy rains over the last two days, coupled with morning dew and the fact that the greens were not rolled before Thursday’s play, led to slower greens, and both Slattery and Cole were slow to adjust to that, both leaving many putts short.

“We were not putting well at all. We both were hitting the ball really well, but not putting well at all. Somebody had to make one sometime,” Slattery said.

It wasn’t until his tee shot on 12 that he began to find a rhythm, Slattery said.

“The whole front nine I was just scraping it around, trying to make pars and hang on, hoping (Cole) didn’t do anything special out front to put me in the hole. I had a good shot on nine. That was probably the first good shot I hit all day,” Slattery said. “I was striking the ball well all week on the back nine. If you’re striking the ball well, you’re hitting every green, usually you’re going to win.”

With Thursday’s win, Slattery joins Johnny Hayes IV, Ricky Jones and Ryan Gay as golfers who have won both the Maine Amateur and Match Play titles.

“The Maine Am last year, that was special, because that’s the first one. That’s like the flagship event of the year,” Slattery said. “This one, this is awesome. You’ve got 32 people in the field, and all 32 could’ve won this thing. It’s five rounds of golf compared to three (at the Maine Am). You’ve got to play well five times.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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