Joe Alvarez of North Berwick and Ricky Jones of Thomaston had played in a combined 23 United States Golf Association national championships.

Now the total is 25, with the pair’s partnering in the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which started Saturday and runs through Wednesday at the famed Olympic Club in San Francisco.

The tournament replaces the U.S. Public Links Championship, which was held for the final time last year. The four-ball championship is open to amateurs whose handicap index doesn’t exceed 5.4 under the USGA system.

Alvarez’s handicap is 0.2 while Jones is a plus 1.2. They qualified for the tournament last August at Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Two of the state’s top players, Alvarez, 35, and Jones, 42, have long competed against each other in state tournaments.

Jones has been named the state’s player of the year a record nine times. He won the Maine Amateur three times (2003, 2004 and 2013) and the Maine Open in 2006. Jones has a powerful repeating swing, and the ability to focus and not get ahead of himself.

Alvarez has that same ability to block things out and focus on his next shot. Both rarely hit errant shots. Their short games are among their strongest traits.

“Once we saw that the USGA was having a four-ball championship, we started talking about putting a team together from Maine,” said Alvarez, who has won three state Mid-Amateur titles and captured the inaugural state match play championship in 2010.

At this time of year, they know they’re at a disadvantage to teams from warm-weather states.

“I’ve played maybe a handful of times. Ricky has only played a couple. We’ll try and crank it up. There are a lot of excellent players in the tournament,” said Alvarez.

This is Jones’ 18th USGA tournament while Alvarez is playing in his seventh.

Jones’ national resume includes three Amateurs, four Mid-Amateurs, four Public Links and six State Team Championships. Alvarez’s previous USGA participation includes two Mid-Amateurs, one Amateur, one Public Links and two State Team Championships.

Jones is familiar with the Olympic Club, having played in the 2007 U.S. Amateur there. That was the year he beat current PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson in match play in the Round of 64.

Alvarez said he will be leaning heavily on his partner for course knowledge.

“Ricky knows his way around the course.”

Asked what he remembered about the course, Jones quipped, “Tight fairways and thick rough.”

Both Alvarez and Jones admitted that playing a USGA event in early May was different. If Maine courses had opened earlier, they would have been able to get in a few more rounds in preparation for the tournament.

“Usually I’ve played a few times at Samoset or Rockland by now,” said Jones.

A starting field of 128 teams are playing 18 holes of qualifying on both Saturday and Sunday – one round at the Lake Course and another at the Ocean Course. The field will be cut to 32 teams for match play, and five 18-hole rounds will determine the champion. The 18-hole final is Wednesday.

TEE TO GREEN: Dan MacDuffie, a Portland native, is the head coach of the men’s and women’s golf teams at the University of Mount Union, a Division III school in Alliance, Ohio. MacDuffie was recently selected as the Ohio Athletic Conference women’s golf coach of the year. His team finished second at the conference championship as the Purple Raiders rallied from seven shots down on the final day to force a playoff before falling on the first playoff hole. MacDuffie was also the women’s OAC coach of the year in 2012. He has coached the women’s program for six years and just completed his 10th season as the men’s coach. A 1996 graduate of Deering High, MacDuffie has won three conference championships as the men’s coach and is a two-time men’s coach of the year.

 The inaugural Maine Junior Golf Open House will take place Sunday afternoon from 1 to 5 at Val Halla Golf Course in Cumberland. The event is being hosted by the Maine State Golf Association, The First Tee of Maine and the Maine chapter of the New England PGA. It’s free and offers young golfers a chance to find out more about opportunities in the sport. There will be all kinds of games and prizes.

 The Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation will hold a charity tournament at Prouts Neck in Scarborough on Thursday, June 11. The foundation provides grants to teachers with innovative initiatives. The cost of a foursome is $500. It’s a shotgun start at 10 a.m. It includes lunch, a cart and a reception, along with silent and live auctions. The tournament website is Golfers should click on the events link to register a foursome.