Caleb Manuel takes an approach shot on the second hole during the final round of the Maine Junior Championship at the Gorham Country Club on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald

For many of the state’s best golfers, the game is about to change.

Next week is the state’s match play championship, which works as a sequel of sorts to the Maine Amateur. The field for the match play championship is seeded based on finish at the Maine Am from early July, and will consist of five rounds starting Tuesday and ending with the final on Thursday. The event this year is at Spring Meadows Golf Club in Gray.

Last year, Will Kannegieser edged Caleb Manuel for the title in 22 holes. Both players will be in the field this year — seeded second and third, respectively, behind John Hayes — and both are looking forward to tackling the event again.

“It’s still a championship and I treat it like that,” said Manuel, who’s coming off of a dramatic victory in the Maine Junior Championship. “Last year … that one stung a little bit. That one stung for a couple of days. I definitely wanted that tournament pretty bad.”

“I’m excited for it,” added Kannegieser, who just graduated from Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts). “Last year it was a grind just to get into the finals, and then the final match was so long. But I’m looking forward to the battles. … You see some upsets, and usually some great matches in the early going. It’s always good just to get out of Day 1 alive. It’s easier said than done.”

The event is a change of pace from the rest of the MSGA tournament schedule, which is primarily stroke play. While the general goal is the same in both formats, both players acknowledged that match play, in which a player is competing directly against an opponent on each hole, encourages a different approach.

“If you know your partner’s hit one in the woods, you don’t have to hit driver. You can just hit an iron out there and win the hole easily,” Manuel said. “If the other guy’s going to shoot a couple (under) par, you don’t have to go 5 or 6 under. You’ve just got to be better than him on the holes he’s struggling on. It’s always good, I think, in match play to get off to a good start. The first three holes, set the tone, and maybe get one or two in the first three or four holes.”

Match play can also encourage players to roll the dice when they normally wouldn’t, knowing a bad mistake won’t haunt them throughout the tournament the way it would in stroke play. A blowup in match play hurts a player no more than a lipped-out par putt to halve the hole would.

“You can make an 8 in stroke play and be done for the whole week,” Manuel said. “I think it favors maybe the riskier players that hit it a little longer and aren’t as conservative, because if they do pull off that shot, they’re most likely going to win the hole.”

Kannegieser said he won’t stray too far outside his gameplan, but agreed that match play, especially in the later rounds, favors the risk-taker.

“There’s going to be a time in a match where you have to pull off a shot off, or you’ve got to put the pressure on,” he said. “It’s a great chance to see what you’re made of, and check in and see where your game’s at. I’ve always enjoyed that facet of it. There’s always a chance they’re going to pull something on you and you’re going to have to respond.”

 

• • •

 

In golf, your game can desert you at any moment. And just as quickly as it left, it can come back.

Just ask Lindsay Cote.

The rising senior at Waterville Senior High School recorded one of the biggest victories of her career, shooting a 7-over 149 over two days to win the Maine Junior Championship’s girls title by four strokes over Women’s Amateur champion Ruby Haylock.

“This morning, when I woke up, I just felt so sick to my stomach,” said Cote, who led by five shots after a first-round 72, then shot 77 to wrap up the victory. “I just told myself, ‘Lindsay, once you tee off on the first hole, it’s going to be fine.’ And it was. I teed off, I hit a good drive and I was perfectly fine. I was ready to take on the day.”

The remarkable part about her victory was that the week before gave no indication it was coming. Cote struggled in the Women’s Amateur, finishing 50 shots behind Haylock and shooting 96-85-92 over the three days to tie for 28th.

Lindsay Cote makes her approach shot on the 14th hole during the final round of the Maine Junior Championship at the Gorham Country Club on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald

“I lost a lot of my confidence,” she said. “I hit two balls into (a hazard on the fifth hole) and I lost my confidence. I wasn’t myself for the rest of the day, as much as I tried to battle back from it.”

Cote shook it off, and had her swagger back by the time the Junior Championship came around.

“I practiced a lot last week, and I told my mom (Tuesday) morning ‘Hey mom, I’m going to win,’ ” she said. “She was like ‘OK Lindsay, sounds good.’ ”

Confidence was one thing, but Cote also had a plan. Smart golf was part of it. Relaxing was another.

“I told myself to have fun,” she said. “I just put too much pressure on myself (in the Amateur). I told myself this week that I was going to go out there, I was going to have fun, and I was going to show people what my real game looks like. I think I did a pretty good job of that.”

 

• • •

 

The field at the Maine Event is starting to take form, and some of the state’s best players are signing up.

The Aug. 12-13 tournament at Augusta Country Club is being held in place of the canceled Maine Open, with the goal of pitting the top players in the state, regardless of gender or professional or amateur status, against each other.

The 58-player field already consists of some big names. Professionals include Shawn Warren, who will be playing in the PGA Championship in San Francisco next week, while the list of amateurs includes Manuel, Ouellette, Kannegieser and Women’s Amateur runner-up Bailey Plourde, as well as local players like Cote, Mark Plummer and Conner Paine.

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