CUMBERLAND — For the second year in a row, Logan Thompson will be playing in the final group of the Maine Junior Championship.

This time, the Mattanawcook Academy student believes he’s better prepared to win. He will take a two-stroke lead into Wednesday’s final round in the boys’ 15-17 age division after shooting an opening-round 1-over par 73 Tuesday at Val Halla Golf and Recreation Center.

“I hit the ball a little farther,” said Thompson, 16, who won the Maine high school Class C title in 2015. “That means a shorter club into the green and it’s a lot easier to get rolling and build confidence that way.”

Last year Thompson had “one blow-up hole,” in the second-round to finish eighth with a 12-over 83. Thompson, of Lincoln, avoided big trouble Tuesday and made four birdies.

“If I just stay consistent, I should be fine,” he said.

Tom Higgins of Cape Elizabeth, who will be a sophomore at Cheverus, is alone in second at 75. Higgins, 14, asked to move up to the 15-17 group because he wanted to face better competition.

When Higgins isn’t logging 30 or more holes a day at Purpoodock Country Club, he’s been playing out-of-state golf tournaments. By winning a qualifying tournament in Rehobeth, Massachusetts, Higgins earned a spot at last week’s IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championship at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Higgins finished tied for 66th with a three-day total of 11 over in the 13-14 division. The winner was 11 under. Next week he will attend the Optimist Junior Golf championship at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach, Florida.

“I was a little tired today,” Higgins said. “I’ve been playing a lot. I wanted to be here because this is the biggest tournament in Maine. All the best players in Maine are playing.”

Three golfers are tied for third, three shots off the pace at 76: defending champion Austin Legge of Cape Elizabeth, Caleb Manuel of Topsham (Mt. Ararat) and John Witt, a summer resident of Kennebunkport who attends Phillips Andover in Andover, Massachusetts.

Legge, 15, started his round bogey-double, bogey, bogey and then played even par over the par-72, 6,595-yard layout.

“The last time I played here was two years ago (in the Maine Junior Championship),” Legge said. “That time I had a good first round and was three shots off the lead and then shot a 95 on the second day. That round started just like today’s round. This time I just kept grinding.”

Legge won last year’s title by shooting consecutive rounds of 4 over.

Manuel won the Junior Amateur 13-14 age group in 2015 by 11 strokes. Like Higgins, Manuel is 14 and opted to play in the 15-17 division.

“I just wanted more competition. I wanted a challenge,” Manuel said. “I wanted to give myself a chance for (Wednesday) by shooting something in the mid-70s. I’m feeling OK.”

Witt, 17, took a triple-bogey 8 on the final hole but said his bigger issue was putting.

“I really felt like I should have been under par,” Witt said. “There were so many birdie putts that I missed. I had two from five feet and bunch from about seven feet. If I work on my putting I could go low tomorrow.”

Caleb Anderson, 15, of Camden (Camden Hills) is alone in sixth after an opening 78. Anderson won the 2015 Maine high school Class A championship.

“There’s no reason I can’t go out and shoot a low number,” Anderson said. “Some people might have to step back a little but (winning) is definitely do-able. I just have to make some putts.”

Players must be 17 or younger to be eligible for the Maine Junior Championship.

In the girls’ 15-17 division, Bailey Plourde, 16, of Newcastle (Lincoln Academy) shot a 3-over 75, making her fourth birdie on the 18th hole to take a one-stroke lead over Erin Holmes of Cumberland (Greely). Also in the hunt are defending champion Lauren Schonewolf, 16, of Cape Elizabeth and Rachel Smith, 14, of North Yarmouth (Greely), who shot 78s. Val Halla is the home course for Holmes and Smith.

“There’s a good group out here,” Plourde said. “I need to come out with less bogeys and birdie as many as I can.”

In the boys’ 13-14 division, Armand Ouellette of Saco shot an 83 to take a two-stroke lead.

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