The Match Play Invitational has only been around six years, but for the top amateur players in the state, it’s quickly become one of the most popular tournaments of the summer.

“You’re going to play good players. You’re going to play your friends. I had to play Matty (Greenleaf) yesterday,” said Jeff Cole, who lost Thursday’s match play championship round to Andrew Slattery. “I had to play Andrew today. You’re going to play your friends and you’re going to play good golfers. There’s only 32 guys. Everyone knows each other. We play each other all year.”

This was Slattery’s fifth time playing the match play tournament, but first time getting through the first day of the three-day event. Among the players Slattery had to defeat to win the match play title was Johnny Hayes IV, who won the Maine Amateur tournament last month at Waterville Country Club.

“After (Wednesday) I was worn out, because Johnny Hayes and Joe Walp are two really good golfers. I thought if I could get out of that day, I’d have a really good chance (Thursday),” Slattery said.

Match play provides different challenges than stroke play, Cole said. How you play a certain hole could be determined by how your opponent plays it.

“There’s just so much more to it than regular stroke play. There’s a lot of strategy involved. I love that it’s every hole. The fact that you’ve got to just focus on that hole. A bad one, you can move on. It only hurts you once,” Cole said after defeating Luke Ruffing on Wednesday to advance to the final.

On Thursday, nowhere was that “play your opponent not the course” strategy more prevalent than on a shot tried by Slattery on the eighth hole. Slattery’s second shot put him in the rough to the left of the fairway, and when Cole’s third shot put him in position to make birdie on the par 5 hole, Slattery decided to take a chance with his third shot.

Slattery elected to shoot a wedge and try to put himself in position for birdie, knowing too well the higher shot could strike nearby tree branches. That’s exactly what happened, and Cole won the hole.

“Where Jeff hit his, to me it looked like four feet (from the pin). You’ve got to expect him to make it. I thought I had to make a birdie to have (a shot at the hole). I could’ve take the 9-iron or an 8-iron to punch it under and run all the way to the back, but then I have a 30-foot putt, and it’s not likely to go in,” Slattery said. “So I tried to knock down a gap wedge and hopefully it would catch a little bit in the rough and kind of trickle on. It was a make-or-break shot.”

In stroke play, it was a shot Slattery never would have tried.

“In stroke play I would’ve just got somewhere on the green, two putted for par and just moved on,” Slattery said. “That’s what makes this so different, playing what the other person does dictates how you play sometimes.”

• • •

A Martindale Country Club member, Slattery didn’t feel like he had a distinct home course advantage for the match play tournament.

“I think there’s a few shots where it helps out, some of the greens maybe,” Slattery said. “For the most part out here, it’s all right in front of you. On the front nine, you just hit driver, and then try and hit a wedge as close as you can. There’s nothing really tricky about it. You’ve still got to hit every shot, make every putt.”

Speaking of putts, Slattery never takes a practice swing before putting. It’s a practice he learned from watching an online golf video when he was a young player just learning the game. The instructor in the video compared putting to signing your name, Slattery said.

“Sign your name, and try staring at it and signing your name again. It’s always going to be better the first time. You can take as many practice strokes as you hope before it, but you’re probably only going to have one perfect stroke,” Slattery said.

One of the top young players in the state, Slattery, 26, adds the match play title to the Maine Am championship he won in 2014. Slattery said it was during the Maine Am two years ago at Augusta Country Club he felt his game begin to dramatically improve. Slattery played the first nine holes of that tournament at plus seven, but played the rest of the tournament at even par.

“That’s when I knew I could play, I could compete with these guys,” Slattery said. “Something finally clicked. I finally played in enough other tournaments to get the hang of playing under pressure. I don’t know how to describe it, really.”

• • •

Belgrade Lakes Golf Club held its annual pro-am tournament on Sunday. Shawn Warren of Falmouth Country Club was the professional winner, shooting a 69. Alasdair Mackenzie of Boothbay Country Club placed second with a 72. Jon Hockson of Sebasco shot 74 to take third place.

In the amateur division, the gross section was won by the team of Dan McCarron, Andrew York, Michael O’Brien and Curtis Jordan. Playing with pro Paul Piveronis of Woodlands Country Club, the team had a gross score of 60. Second place went to the team of Mark Plummer, Jim Quinn, Karl Strand and Joe Alvarez, who with pro Steve Niezgoda of Sugarloaf shot 63.

In the net division, the winning team was Jerry Tipper, Jeff Walvick, John Koons and Gary Allison, who shot a 53 net score with pro Peter Devos of Kebo Valley. Second place went to Douglas Terp, James Terhune, Paul Green and Rueben Rivera, who played with Ryan Talbot of Falmouth to score a net 56.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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