The only thing certain about this year’s Maine Amateur golf tournament is there won’t be a repeat champion.

Matt Hutchins, who last year as a 19-year-old conquered the heat and the tough course at York Golf & Tennis Club to win by six strokes, has moved to Florida and isn’t eligible to play. His departure opens the door for a host of others, many of them in Hutchins’ age group.

“Every year there seems to be one or two pop up,” 13-time champion Mark Plummer said of the young golfers. “That’s great, a tribute to our junior program. We’ve had some pretty good young golfers come out of it, and new ones are coming along every day.”

The 98th Maine Amateur will be held Tuesday through Thursday at Brunswick Golf Club. The only other time the club hosted the event was in 1997, when Plummer won his 10th title.

Now 65, Plummer is looking forward to seeing who emerges from a field of 132 players that includes four other former champions: Ron Brown (1975, 1999), Ricky Jones (2003, 2004, 2013), Andrew Slattery (2014) and John Hayes IV (2015).

“This is an opportunity to compete,” said Plummer, whose last Maine Amateur title was in 2002. “I don’t have any illusions about winning or anything. I just hope I play well and get in the running, and make it into the last group.”

Jones, who finished second a year ago, said it should be an interesting tournament.

“I think it’s going to be wide open,” he said. “There are a lot of people who could win it.”

Joe Baker, who finished third last year, is one likely contender. He’s coming off an impressive win in the Four-Ball tournament two weeks ago.

Alex Viola, the defending club champ, knows this course inside-out.

“It’s definitely an advantage,” said Viola. “There are places to miss (on the course), and knowing that, and what your putts will do on the greens or where to stay short of the hole, is very helpful.”

And then there are the young guns, such as Gavin Dugas, Reese McFarlane and Will Kannegieser, all coming off successful college seasons, as well as Cole Anderson, who will enter his junior year at Camden Hills High and has already verbally committed to play at Florida State.

“We’re now coming up through as we’re getting older, we start to get a little better and come into play a little more,” said Dugas, who will be a junior at Husson University. “There’s a few good young players out there.”

Dugas finished 16th in the NCAA Division III championships. McFarlane plays Division I golf and finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association championships as a freshman at UNC-Wilmington, and Kannegieser was a first-team all-New England Small College Athletic Conference selection as a freshman at Williams. Even Viola is only 22, a 2013 graduate of Endicott.

Dugas, who is from Pittsfield and plays out of JW Parks Golf Course, has high hopes.

“I’ve been playing pretty good,” he said. “Obviously to win it would be a dream come true.”.

But Dugas added it would be a mistake to overlook the former champs.

“Ricky Jones, Mark Plummer, they’re up there on the leaderboard of Maine greats,” he said. “There really are a lot of people who could be in contention. Obviously, it comes down to whoever plays the best.”

Jones, 45, said he hasn’t played much this year – a combination of the wet spring and following his daughters on the Oceanside High softball team – and he really doesn’t know what to expect when he tees off with the first group at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“I really don’t have that high of expectations yet,” he said. “I’m working on it a little bit, getting somewhat closer.”

Like Plummer, Jones sees the younger golfers making a mark in this tournament but added that, “A lot of it just comes down to how you’re playing that week, how you like the course.”

All Jones has to do is look back to last year, when he entered the event coming off what he called “my worst score in maybe 10 years,” but still finished second.

Viola said the course is in great shape, especially the greens. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy course to play.

“Probably I’d say like most courses, the key is hitting fairways and greens,” said Viola. “The short game is what saves rounds, getting up and down and making pars when it looks like a bogey might be in play.”

It’s like that every week, said Plummer.

“There’s no mystery,” he said. “It’s all about executing.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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