BRUNSWICK — A youth movement has hit the golf scene in Maine. On Thursday, two of the biggest young guns in the state showed how and why they are among the leaders of the next wave of the state’s golfing talent. Matt Hutchins of Falmouth and Will Kannegieser of Minot, both 19, battled in one of the tightest Maine Match Play championship rounds yet, with Hutchins taking a 1-up win at Brunswick Golf Club.

“I try to look at it as going out and beating the course. It’s fun,” Hutchins said of the match play format. “You play aggressive, you hit a lot of drivers, and just try to make a lot of birdies.”

Kannegieser was 1-up for much of the back nine holes. Hutchins tied the match by winning hole 15, then took the lead with a victory on 16. In the seven years since the Match Play Championship was reintroduced by the Maine State Golf Association, Thursday’s Hutchins-Kannegieser match is just the second final to go 18 holes, joining 2013, when Matt Greenleaf beat Joe Walp. With the win, Hutchins became the first player to win both the Maine Amateur and Match Play championships in the same year since Ryan Gay in 2011.

“I feel like if I continue to get better, I’ll give myself chances to win golf tournaments, and I’ve been fortunate to win a couple this summer,” Hutchins said.

Neither Hutchins nor Kannegieser ever led by more than 1-up in the match.

“He played great. I was ready for a match. I was excited just to have the chance to go out and battle and he came on tough,” Kannegieser said. “I can’t really complain. I played well and I had my chances.”

Hutchins squared the match on the par 3, 155-yard 15th hole. His tee shot landed just off the front of the green. From there, Hutchins putted to within a foot of the pin before tapping in for par. Kannegieser, meanwhile, saw his tee shot land in the bunker to the left of the green.

On the par 5, 494-yard 16th hole, Hutchins took the lead for good. Kannegieser pulled his tee shot to the left, where it ricocheted through the trees like a pinball. With 16 one of the longer holes on the course, Kannegieser took a chance and went to his driver. Hutchins, meanwhile, sent his tee shot right down the middle of the fairway.

“I was going for it. When you have that much space to miss, you might as well swing hard and I did and just missed it left. I figured after his drive he’d probably make a birdie. He’s pretty good after he gets a good drive on the fairway,” Kannegieser said. “He used his distance to his advantage today. I chose, for the most part, to lay back. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing all week. I don’t really know where my driver’s going.”

Randy Hodsdon, the MSGA director of rules and competition, called Hutchins “the best player I’ve seen in Maine in a long time.” Hodsdon noted it would be premature to count out current Player of the Year Ricky Jones, who at 44 was runner up to Hutchins in the Maine Amateur at the York Golf and Tennis Club in July. Hodsdon also mentioned the depth of talent among the state’s younger players.

“You’ve got Will. You’ve got Matt now. Look at Cole Anderson, what he just did at the Juniors, 10-under,” Hodsdon said. This week, representing Samoset, Anderson won the New England Junior title by shooting an incredible 10-under par at Cochecho Country Club in Dover, N.H. “That hasn’t been done before. It’s looking very, very bright. We’ve got some really good young players coming up. Maine golf seems in good shape right now, I think.”

Kannegieser and Hutchins traded the lead four times over the front nine. Kannegieser took a 1-up lead at hole 9 when Hutchins’ tee shot went just inches out of bounds to the left of the fairway. Seeing that, Hutchins immediately conceded the hole.

“That’s what it is when you play this many rounds of golf in a short amount of time. You’re not always going to hit it your best,” Hutchins said. “Stroke play it might’ve hurt me, but in match play you just lose one hole. You can easily win the next. It’s completely gone.”

Hutchins prevented Kannegieser from increasing his lead with an incredible shot on hole 13. Hutchins’ tee shot pulled to the left, landing close to a pair of trees. Hutchins studied the lie before angling himself between the two trees, almost wedging himself in the tight spot to rip off a low line drive of a shot. While the shot didn’t reach the green, it did put Hutchins in position to chip to within a few feet of the pin, where he putted to save par and halve the hole.

To advance to the finals, both Hutchins and Kannegieser had to win two matches on Tuesday and two more Wednesday. As the Maine Amateur champion, Hutchins was the top seed in the Match Play Championship. He opened the tournament with a 5 and 4 win over Jon Hardy before a pair of 1-up victories over Mark Plummer and Kyle Alexander. In Wednesday’s semifinal round, Hutchins took a 4 and 3 win over Judd Parsons.

Nobody in the 32-player field played more holes than Kannegieser over the tournament. The 14 seed, Kannegieser’s first round win over Greenleaf took 20 holes. Kannegieser’s second-round match against fellow Martindale golfer Joe Baker went 19 holes, and his quarterfinal match against Jack Wyman was a 1-up contest. In the semis, Kannegieser finally had a match that didn’t go at least 18 holes, beating Mike Doran in 17 holes, 2 and 1.

Although Hutchins moved back to Maine from Massachusetts with his family last year, he and Kannegieser had crossed paths a few times in junior tournaments. They also played together in a Maine Am qualifier at Poland Springs. Throughout Thursday’s match, the duo chatted like old friends as they walked from hole to hole.

“I knew he had a game. He’s been playing great this year. We just talked about other golfers, people we know, school and stuff,” Kannegieser said. “There are a lot of good golfers in Maine. (Hutchins) is definitely the best, but I think nobody’s so much better. There’s always a question of who’s going to win. Other people have chances and that’s what makes it great.”

“Will’s an awesome guy. I couldn’t be more excited when I saw I was playing him in the final. I’ve talked to him a bunch before. We’re both pretty level-headed guys who love to compete, but at the same time we want the best for each other,” Hutchins said.

Last year, Hutchins played for Division II California State University at Chico. He’s since transferred to UCLA, where Hutchins will join the Bruins golf team. Kannegieser is off to Williams College this fall. With their match over and the awards ceremony complete, the pair congratulated each other on a good day and wished each other luck.

I’ll be following you, they said to each other.

Golf fans in Maine should be happy they can follow both, too.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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