John Hayes IV feels he’s been playing some pretty good golf this summer. That must continue this week if he hopes to defend his Maine Amateur championship.

Hayes, who shot a 9-under 201 to win the title last year at the Waterville County Club, will face a strong challenge from several golfers when the 97th Maine Amateur begins Tuesday at the York Golf and Tennis Club.

“There are probably 15 to 20 guys every year who can win the Maine Am. There are a lot of good players in Maine,” said Hayes, of Cape Elizabeth. “It really comes down to who has it that week and who’s putting well.”

Hayes will tee off with the first group at 7 a.m. Tuesday. The 54-hole stroke play tournament will begin with 132 players, then cut to 40 and any ties heading into the final day Thursday.

If you’re looking for a favorite, you might want to consider the 26-year-old Hayes – or Matt Hutchins, a newcomer on the Maine golf scene.

Hutchins, a 19-year-old from Falmouth who plays out of The Woodlands, has had a fabulous season: a second-place finish in the New England Open, a third in the Massachusetts Open and the low score (3-under 68) during Maine Amateur qualifying at Poland Spring.

“I haven’t seen him or played with him,” said Mark Plummer, a 13-time winner of the tournament, “but I’ve heard a lot about him.”

Hutchins, whose family moved back to Falmouth last year from Sudbury, Massachusetts, will be a sophomore at UCLA in the fall after playing his freshman year at Chico State in California. He had moved from Maine as a young child.

“I was just looking for the best opportunity to play golf,” Hutchins said of his venture to the West Coast. “Chico was great. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to go to UCLA.”

He laughs when told people consider him the favorite, noting he’s only played one tournament in Maine in his life and that was the qualifier.

“No pressure,” he said. “I just look at this as another tournament, and another week to learn and get better as a golfer. Whatever the results are, they are. It’s another step in the right direction for me.”

Hayes felt the same way last year. He likes the course at York, which is hosting the Amateur for only the second time, the first since 1978.

It’s not a particularly long course and requires a good short game. “It’s the kind of course where you don’t have to hit the ball nine miles to win,” said Plummer, who finished second to Hayes last year. “It’s not a bomber’s golf course. But the greens are tricky and you’ve got to keep the ball in play.”

Hayes, who graduated from the University of Colorado with a business degree, has worked on putts and wedges recently.

“It’s such a short course and I don’t think it’s tight, I think there’s going to be a lot of birdies out there,” he said. “If you can get close to the hole, 15 feet in, with your wedges, you’ll be making birdies.”

Golf has been part of Hayes’ life – and family – for as long as he can remember. His sister, Alyssa, won the Maine women’s title in 2002. His great-grandfather was a club pro in Newport, Rhode Island, where his family still has ties. In fact, he recently played in the Rhode Island Amateur, losing in the quarterfinals of the match-play tournament.

“From an early age my dad pushed me to golf,” said Hayes. “I’m glad he did. I can’t thank him enough for it. I love to play. But you’ve also got to put the work in, you’ve got to stay on top. You get what you put into the game.”

And he puts in a lot. He said he plays whenever he’s not working and he hopes someday to be good enough to become a pro.

“I love it but I’m not good enough at the moment,” he said.

He’s good enough to be among Maine’s best. Other former Amateur winners in the field include the 64-year-old Plummer, Ricky Jones (2003, 2004) and Andrew Slattery (2013).

Five different players have won in the last five years. That, said Plummer, shows the depth of the state’s talent.

“You’ve got to go out and shoot a score as good as you can shoot,” he said. “There are guys out there who can shoot 66, 67, 68 and that’s something you didn’t have 12, 15 years ago.

“It will be fun to see how it all shakes out this year.”