BELGRADE — It wasn’t playing in the 2015 Maine Amateur Championship that made Andrew Slattery feel the pressure. It was the title he carried onto the Waterville Country Club course that made him squeeze the grips of his clubs a little tighter.

He wasn’t just Andrew Slattery. He was Andrew Slattery, Defending Champion.

“That was extremely nerve-wracking. That was terrifying,” Slattery said Wednesday after completing his second round of this year’s Maine Am at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club. “All of a sudden, you have that label on you… That was actually the hardest first round I’ve had, I think, ever in this tournament.”

He has since traded the Defending in his title for Former.

This is the thing about winning a tournament. Once you do it once everybody expects you to do it again, especially yourself.

“If I make a bogey or a double bogey the first couple holes, I know I can come back and make some birdies,” John Hayes IV, winner of the 2015 Maine Am, said after his first round at Belgrade Lakes Tuesday. “My mental game’s pretty strong.”

There are six previous winners in this year’s Maine Am, including Slattery, Hayes, and defending champ Jack Wyman. Also in the field are a trio of multiple winners with lifetime exemptions from qualifying for the tournament: Ron Brown, who won in 1975 and 1999, three-time winner Ricky Jones, and Mark Plummer, whose 13 Maine Am wins is Maine golf’s unbreakable record.

Former champion Maine Am champion Ron Brown hits on the first fairway during the tournament’s second round Wednesday at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club

Plummer won his 13 crowns in the 30 tournaments between 1973 and 2002. Plummer finished his first two rounds this week at plus-7. Plummer wasn’t in contention, but he wasn’t going to miss the cut, either.

“Father Time’s catching up with me. I’m trying to hang in there the best I can. It’s fun still being out there competing,” Plummer said.

Plummer has settled into the role of Maine golf’s favorite uncle. Throughout his first two rounds playing with Wyman and Peter Wright, Plummer cracked jokes and offered encouragement to his playing partners.

“Mark’s always a good time. He’s always laughing out there. He obviously plays really well, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously,” Wyman said. “You just watch him. You watch how he carries himself. Mark could easily win it in the next couple years. He’s still got the game to do it.”

It’s been 16 years since Plummer won the Maine Am, but to Brown, that’s nothing. Brown won his first Maine Am in 1975. He didn’t win again for 25 years. Everything went his way in 1999, Brown, now 69, said. He played in the U.S. Amateur Championship, the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and the Senior U.S. Open that year.

“I had just gotten back from the Senior Open and played the Maine Amateur. I was ready to play tournament golf at that time,” Brown said.

Plummer won consecutive Maine Amateur titles three times, including three straight twice, from 1982-84 and 2000-02. Jones snapped that run of Plummer dominance with the 2003 title. Then, Jones won it again in 2004.

Former champion Ricky Jones putts on the first green at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club during the second day of play in the Maine Amateur Championship.

“I think I was playing better than I did in ’03,” Jones said. “The boost from ’03 just gave me confidence going into ’04. I think I worked a little harder in ’04 after winning. It felt good to win, so I wanted to do it again.” Jones’ first two

Maine Am wins came when the tournament was match play. When he won again in 2013, it was in a stroke play tournament.

“It was sort of a long time coming. I focused on my game, and it was one of those years I played a lot before the Amateur. I felt good going into it,” Jones said.

Entering the tournament as a former champion brings a certain level of confidence, even when you know you’re not playing your best golf. Slattery was even over the first two days this week, but he knows he can play well in Thursday’s final round. He’s done it before. A strong chip on to the green on hole 18 set up a par putt to finish Slattery’s second round. That’s the kind of shot he can build from Thursday.

“I still expect to come out here and play well because I know I can play well. At this point it’s all mental,” Slattery said. “It’s all confidence. As long as I’m confident, I know I can go out there and put up a couple solid rounds. It’s not like it used to be, but it’s still good.”

Brown said next year will be his final Maine Am. He’ll be 70, and the tournament will be at Portland Country Club, his home course. Plummer takes it year by year. Jones sees no end in sight.

“I’m exempt forever, so if I make it until I’m 90, I’ll still be playing,” Jones said.

Wyman, 27, not only has the Defending Champion target on his back, he’s the leader after two days. Wyman can earn that lifetime exemption with a win Thursday. He enters the final day with a one-stroke lead over 17-year old Cole Anderson, and a two-stroke lead over 20-year-old Drew Powell. Last year, Wyman carried not only his clubs but a bundle of nerves when he entered the final day with the lead.

This year? Wyman is calm.

“I was definitely stressed out last year going into the final day. I’ve played a lot of golf, and I played through the winter,” Wyman said. “I have some more tournament golf under my belt now. We’ll see what happens.”

When you’re already a champion, why be nervous?

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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