AUBURN — Luke Ruffing received word Monday night that he was being invited to play in the Maine State Golf Association Match Play Invitational this week at Fox Ridge.

The 2014 Maranacook High School graduate and 2013 Class B state co-champion who plays out of Belgrade Lakes accepted because he was going to be the last man in — the No. 32 overall seed — and had the opportunity to play the No. 1 overall seed and reigning Maine Amateur Champion, Caleb Manuel.

Ruffing was also told there would be a money game — exhibition matches — for the first round losers Tuesday afternoon if they so chose to participate.

Ruffing had other plans in the afternoon after he defeated Manuel 2-up Tuesday morning to move on in the tournament.

The start, however, for Ruffing wasn’t what he was hoping for, losing the first hole.

“I knocked the first putt 40 feet by and I was like, the greens are quick, (but) I stayed patient and stayed with my game plan,” Ruffing said.

He wanted to hit the middle of the greens and play conservatively.

Ruffing bounced back, winning the second hole, and after both players parred holes 3 and 4, Manuel took back the 1-up lead on the par-3 fifth hole. Ruffing answered with a birdie on the sixth hole to tie the match. Manuel retook the lead on No. 7.

Ruffing found a groove to close out the front nine, with birdies on No. 8 and No. 9, to win the hoes to take a 1-up lead to the back nine. He parred the par-4 10th hole, which was good enough to win the hole for a 2-up lead.

Manuel found some momentum with a birdie to win the par-5 11th hole and then birdied the short par-3 13th hole to even the match. Manuel went out of bounds with his tee shot on the par-4 14th hole, which allowed Ruffing to regain the 1-up advantage.

Ruffing’s lead lasted one hole when on the par-4 15th hole he missed a short par putt, which lost him the hole. On the par-3 16th hole, both players found the frontside bunker with their tee shots. Manuel tried to use the slope of the green in front of the bunker to feed the ball to the hole but wasn’t able to get the ball near the pin. He was aggressive with his par putt and rolled it 6 feet by and then missed the bogey putt, which lost him the hole.

“I three-putted from 15 feet. That one is probably the dumb mistake down the stretch, and the decision with the tee shot on No. 14,” Manuel said. “I either needed to go farther right or lay up on that one. (Ruffing) played solid.”

Manuel nearly evened the match on the par-5 17th hole when his eagle chip hit the flagstick but the ball did not drop. They both made birdies.

“I thought that chip shot on No. 17 was going to go in,” Manuel said. “If the pin was out, I think it would have gone in. It happens.”

Again Manuel found trouble off the tee on No. 18, putting the ball in the penalty area. After taking a drop, he put his third shot just in the greenside rough and missed his par chip, which clinched the match for Ruffing.

The Round of 16 didn’t get much easier for Ruffing facing the No. 16 seed James Frost, who’s a member at Fox Ridge. But Ruffing defeated Frost 2 and 1.

For Frost, he wasn’t expecting Ruffing to be his opponent in the second round.

“No, I didn’t, when I looked at the draw yesterday and saw Luke was a 32 seed, that’s going to be a tough match for (Manuel) in the first round,” Frost said. “It was definitely unexpected to play Luke than Caleb, but Luke is playing well right now.”

After Ruffing made an eagle chip on the 11th hole to go up 1-up he nearly went up 2-up on the 13th hole, sticking his tee shot in tight but missed the short birdie putt.

“It’s all mental, I am an absolute nutcase,” Ruffing said of missing short putts. “Occasionally you make a putt, occasionally you miss a short one. I have been working a lot on those, they will start falling. I made a big bomb on 16, I can’t complain too much.”

Frost made a birdie on No. 15 to tie the match prior to Ruffing’s birdie on 16 to retake the 1-up lead.

The 17th hole played a factor again in the second round when Frost’s second shot airmailed the green and he couldn’t find it. He had to go back and re-hit and put his fourth shot 20 feet from the pin but missed his par putt, which gave Ruffing the 2 and 1 win.

“It’s unfortunate (what happened) on 17, I thought I pinged 206 (yards) with the range finder,” Frost said. “With the conditions uphill and with a flyer lie, that’s a good 6-iron, I think I flew everything and I hit a 7-iron 20 feet when I dropped it (for the fourth shot).”

Up next for Ruffing Wednesday morning is Tim Desmarais (Deep Brook Golf Course), who defeated Oxford Hills graduate Garrett Olson (Brunswick Golf Club) in 19 holes in the second round.

In the opening round, Desmarais defeated Mike Steinberg (Val Halla) 1-up.

Demarais has a connection with Ruffing from when he was the Cape Elizabeth golf coach.

“I never played against Luke, so I am excited to play against Luke,” Desmarais said. “I am excited to play him, I know he’s a good player, I used to watch him. I coached Reese (McFarlane) in high school so I have seen a lot of Luke’s game. He’s very good, he’s very consistent.”

McFarlane and Ruffing played against each other in state tournaments.

The lone Sun Journal-area player to make it through to Wednesday is Craig Chapman (Fox Ridge), who defeated Joe Walp 2 and 1 in the second round and Steve Lycette (Falmouth Country Club) in the first round, 1-up.

“Early on it was a struggle. I beat Steve Lycette, we both struggled,” Chapman said. “I was able to grind through that one. I found a little bit in the afternoon, it wasn’t great but it was good enough. It’s always fun playing with Joe, he’s my buddy. I think we both could have played better but someone had to come out on top.”

Chapman will face Joe Alvarez (Webhannet Golf Club) in the quarterfinals. Alvarez defeated Scott Sirois (The Woodlands) in the first round and Martindale’s Jace Pearson 4 and 3 in the second round.

Pearson defeated Jordan Jones of Fox Ridge in the morning.

Armand Ouellette (Biddeford-Saco) was three down with five to go but defeated Drew Glasheen (Waterville) 1-up to move on to the quarterfinal. In the morning, Ouellette defeated Brian Bilodeau of Martindale.

Ouellette will take on Drew Powell (Penobscot Valley) after Powell defeated Joe Hamilton (Biddeford-Saco), last year’s runner-up, 2 and 1 in the second round and Thomas Whelan (Brunswick Golf Club) in the first round.

Jeff Cole (Brunswick Golf Club) defeated Brian Angis (first round) and Jimmy Quentin (second round), both of Biddeford-Saco. He will face Ryan Gay (Augusta Country Club) in the quarterfinals.

Ryan Gay had the largest margin of victory of the day, defeating Thomas Higgins (Purpoodock Club) in the first round 7 and 6. He defeated Mike Doran (Brunswick Golf Club) 3 and 1 in the second round. Doran needed 22 holes in the first round to defeat Justin Irish of Webhannet Golf Club.

The two-time defending Match Play Invitational champion Will Kanngeiser wasn’t in the field this week.


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