The Maine State Golf Association’s Match Play Championship features one of the strongest fields in its five-year history. That’s according to defending champion Matt Greenleaf of Portland, who beat Joe Walp of Portland 1 up in last year’s final at Fox Ridge Golf Course in Auburn.

This year’s tournament is Tuesday through Thursday at Sable Oaks Golf Club in South Portland, with 32 of the state’s top players going head to head. There are two rounds Tuesday, two rounds Wednesday and an 18-hole final Thursday.

The top 16 finishers and ties from the Maine Amateur qualify, with the rest of the field chosen by season-long player of the year points.

“This tournament is gaining more prestige,” said Mike Doran, director of player development and tournament administration for the MSGA.

“I agree with Matt that this is the strongest field we’ve had. I feel any one of the 32 players could win it. Guys relish the chance to play in the tournament.”

Doran has been one of the state’s top players for the last few years. His first match is against Will Kannegieser of Minot, who won his second straight Maine Junior Amateur title this past week.

Along with Greenleaf and Walp, some of the other players of note are Andrew Slattery, the Maine Amateur champion; Ricky Jones, a three-time Maine Amateur champ and the 2006 Maine Open winner; and former match play winners Joe Alvarez and John Hayes IV. Also in the field are Jason Gall, Tommy Stirling, Len Cole, Tom Bean, former Maine Amateur champion Eric Crouse, Sam Grindle, Jack Wyman and Drew Powell, who finished second in the Maine Junior Amateur.

Home clubbers in the tournament include Greenleaf, Doran, Stirling, Mike O’Brien, Ashley Fifield and Jeff Cole.

“We have a bunch of Sable Oaks members in the tournament,” Stirling said. “It’s a quirky course so having knowledge of it should help.

“You have to be on your game the whole 18 holes. It’s a mental grind. You can play position golf or be aggressive with the driver, which could give you a much better look at a birdie.”

Sable Oaks has some of the tightest fairways in the state. A lot of the players in the field will opt for a 3-wood, hybrid or iron off the tees. There are three holes on which players are forced to lay up off the tees. It’s a positional golf course, for sure.

But as Stirling noted, there are some holes where you can play aggressively, hitting a driver. Most of the players in the field are long and accurate with the driver, so narrow fairways aren’t an issue with them.

Stirling, who finished second to Jones in last year’s Maine Amateur at Augusta Country Club, is playing in his first match play championship.

“I’ve always had to go back to college,” he said.

Stirling has one semester remaining at Southwest Oklahoma State, where he played on the golf team. He has used up his golf eligibility so he doesn’t have to get back to school as early this year.

Besides Doran’s match against Kannegieser, other interesting first-round matchups are Alvarez vs. Cole, Stirling vs. Gall, Walp vs. Rocco Spizuoco (former Deering High teammates) and Grindle against Wyman.

“I could play the Maine Junior champion and the Maine Amateur champ in one day,” said Doran.

That would happen if Doran beats Kannegieser and Slattery beats O’Brien.

Tee to Green: Ricky Jones of Thomaston qualified for his fourth United States Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship last week at the Golf Club of Cape Cod in East Falmouth, Massachusetts. Jones shot an even-par 72 to earn one of the five qualifying spots. The other four qualifiers were from Massachusetts, including medalist Jordan Burke, who shot a 69.

Jones played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2006, 2008 and 2011. In 2008 he qualified for match play and won his first match before losing in the Round of 32.

The Mid-Amateur will be Sept. 6-11 at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The tournament is for golfers age 25 and up with a handicap index not exceeding 3.4.

The Maine team for the New England Junior Championship Aug. 18-20 at Ledgemont Country Club in Seekonk, Massachusetts, will be Will Kannegieser of Minot, Luke Ruffing of Manchester, Reese McFarlane of Cape Elizabeth, Gavin Dugas of Pittsfield, Drew Powell of Bangor, Drew Kane of Scarborough and Daulton Wickenden of Rockport.

As Maine Junior champ, Kannegieser is an automatic qualifier. The others earned their spots based on scores in MSGA junior events.

Melissa Johnson of Martindale Country Club in Auburn set a women’s course record with a 71 at Spring Meadows Golf Course in Gray in a recent weekly Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association tournament.

Macarthur Kim of Paris, playing in the Maine Junior Amateur at Val Halla in Cumberland last week, had his second shot on the par-4 13th hole get stuck in the branches of a tree on the right side of the fairway. Kim, his playing partners and a rules official could see a ball in the tree, but since he couldn’t climb up the tree and actually identify his ball, Kim had to play it as a lost ball. Had he been able to identify it as his ball, he could have taken an unplayable lie and dropped near the spot.

Twenty minutes later, MSGA director of rules and competition Randy Hodsdon was sitting in his golf cart under the tree when Kim’s ball dropped to the ground right next to him.

Khai Buttner, 12, had the shot of the tournament when he scored a hole-in-one on the uphill 180-yard 17th, using a hybrid. When Buttner and his group got to the green, they couldn’t find his ball and looked just off the back of the green until someone finally checked the hole and found it nestled in the cup.