Class C state champion Mitch Tarrio, of Kents Hill, watches his shot during the state championships Saturday at Natanis Golf Club in Vassalboro. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

He was the defending champion, and the favorite to win it again. But when Mitch Tarrio stepped up to the first tee at Natanis Golf Course’s Arrowhead side Saturday for the Class C championships, he was nervous.

“Yeah, especially early in the round,” he said. “I feel like a lot of people were looking at me to be the guy, so I was just trying to focus on my game while everybody is kind of looking at me, what I’m doing.”

Whatever hype and attention there was, Tarrio once again played up to it. The Kents Hill senior and Augusta resident won his second straight Class C individual title, shooting a 1-under 71 on a waterlogged course and rolling to an eight-shot win over St. Dominic’s Neil Larochelle and Houlton’s Isaac Vega.

“It feels just as good,” Tarrio said. “Having it be my senior year, I think that’s a little bit bigger for me. Coming out here and being able to win in my last time playing in it is pretty big for me.”

As was winning with a target on his back. Before anyone even hit their opening tee shots, it was well-known that Tarrio was the player to beat.

Class C state championship winner Mitch Tarrio, of Kents Hill, holds his trophy Saturday at Natanis Golf Club in Vassalboro. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

“I think there is a little added pressure there, knowing that they’re expecting me to do something,” he said. “I think I did really well under that pressure.”

Steady play got Tarrio in this position, and that was the key again Saturday. He used driver three times all round, opting most of the time to stripe irons down the fairway. He kept himself out of trouble, hit 14 greens in regulation, and birdied five holes.

“I was just trying to find fairways, and make sure I could abuse the rule of preferred lies on the fairway,” he said. “There were some kind of nasty lies when you got outside of the fairway.”

When trouble did find Tarrio, he had an answer. He was 2 over when his tee shot on the par-3 seventh took a bad bounce out of bounds and led to a double bogey, and after a bogey on eight, he was over par for the first time all round.

It was the only real hiccup for Tarrio, and it didn’t linger. He birdied the par-4 ninth after nearly driving the green, and after sticking his shot on the par-3 12th nine feet from the hole and rolling in the birdie putt, he was back on a roll.

Tarrio said that recovery was one of the crucial points in his round.

“That was pretty important to keep my momentum going,” he said. “(The key was) understanding that it’s only one shot, and if you hit a bad shot there are plenty of opportunities to make up for it.”

A playing partner of his, Mt. Abram’s Ben DeBiase, carded an 80 in his first state championship. The junior, who anchored the school’s first golf team this fall, had 40s on the front and back, recorded three birdies and finished fourth in Class C.

“I’m really happy about it,” he said. “I think it helps me to play with people I’ve never played before, never met before, because it forces me to play the best game that I can, so I can make sure that they know I’m not just coming out here and fooling around.”

Like Tarrio, DeBiase also had to shake off struggles, as he was even through six holes before playing the next four 5 over. He bounced back with a pair of birdies on the back nine, however, the last of which came on the 18th hole.

“You just have to focus on the good shots you were hitting,” he said, “and think about what you did right instead of what you did wrong.”

In Class B, Waterville’s Brandon Bearce made a run for the championship, shooting an 80 to tie for second behind champion Tyler Rivers (77) of York.

“Obviously, I wanted to win. I knew if I played good I could give it a run,” said Bearce, who shook off an opening triple bogey to put himself back in contention. “I thought it was pretty wide-open, compared to last year. I figured if I put a good round together, I might be able to be up there.”

In the girls championship, Nokomis’ Lindsay Cote finished tied for third at 82 behind Leavitt’s Ruby Haylock and Morghan Dutil (75 each). Cote, who rebounded from an 8-over first nine, said her performance capped a year of improvement in the mental part of the game.

“My mental game and my short game was a big part of that,” she said. “Getting my head in it. I know last year, if I shot 8 over, I probably wouldn’t have shot 2 over on the (second nine). It’s something I’ve been working on all summer, playing in a lot of tournaments, just getting ready for this time of year.”

Kents Hill’s T.J. Folsom (seventh in C, 85) also had a top-10 finish, while Winthrop’s Zach Pray (88) tied for 11th in C and Monmouth’s Abby Flanagan (96) was 12th among the girls. Messalonskee’s Dylan Cunningham was 16th in Class A with an 83.

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