BELGRADE — A final group shootout between the defending champ and two young guns is set for the final round of the Maine State Golf Association Amateur championship.

Jack Wyman, the 2017 champ, has the lead at 6 under after posting his second straight 3-under 68 Wednesday at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club. Lurking one shot back is confident Cole Anderson, 17, who rallied for an even-par round. Drew Powell, 20, a player at Brown University, is in third at 4 under.

“That’s been the game plan, just to stay in the tournament, and come tomorrow, it’s a different ballgame,” said Powell after his four-birdie, three-bogey round. “Maybe I’ll play that way off the start and see how the other guys are doing, and then come the back nine, if I need to step up a bit I know I can do it.”

Wyman has been the most consistent. Wednesday, he made four birdies, with his only bogey on the seventh hole, where he had a double bogey on Tuesday.

“I was playing a little conservative at the end,” Wyman said. “I knew I had a pretty good round and that I didn’t need to do a whole lot.”

Anderson started Wednesday with a two-shot lead at 5 under. He made two bogeys and a double bogey to offset four birdies in an even-par round.

“I would have loved to have extended the lead, of course, but overall, I’m happy with how I played and happy to have a good shot. One shot (behind). That’s one hole.

“It’s not like I’m five shots back and having to go out and kill it tomorrow to be in the equation. I’ll be right there from the first tee shot.”

The top 40 scorers (plus ties) return for Thursday’s final round. The first two rounds produced 16 sub-par scores on the 6,589-yard course. The greens played faster and pin positions changed on Wednesday. It is expected the course will play tougher on Thursday.

Wyman, 27, of South Freeport and a member at Portland Country Club, has a chance to become the first back-to-back winner since Ryan Gay won in 2010 and 2011.

“It would be pretty neat, but you can’t really control that,” Wyman said. “You’ve just got to play the best that you can and if that’s good enough, you know, good. If not, you always give it your all so it’s OK.”

Anderson and Powell are both looking for their first Maine Amateur title. Anderson was third last year; Powell was third in 2014. Both also have won Maine high school titles – three straight for Anderson, who will be a senior at Camden Hills.

“Winning is hard at any level, but this is your state am,” said Anderson, who qualified and played in the 2017 U.S. Amateur. “Every golfer, your state am is a big deal. Alaska probably has a state am where people care. It’s a good tournament, it’s the best in the state, so why wouldn’t you be excited about the opportunity?”

If any of the top three stumble, 2015 champion John Hayes IV, 28, of Portland (Sable Oaks) is in fourth place at 3 under. Hayes had one of the best rounds in the morning, shooting a 2-under 69.

Other players still in the hunt at 1 under are Joe Baker, 32, of Oxford (Martindale Country Club), Joe Alvarez , 38, of Biddeford (Webhannet Golf Club), and Caleb Manuel, 16, of Topsham (Brunswick Golf Club).

Baker matched Wyman and Tim Desmarais of Portland (Riverside Golf Course) for Wednesday’s low-score honors with a 3 under. Desmarais shot 6 over in the opening round.

Alvarez and Manuel both were 1 over on the day. Manuel had to rally on the back nine after playing his first nine holes in 4 over.

NOTES: The cut line fell at 11 over. … Mark Plummer, 66, the tournament’s 13-time champion, continued to strike the ball well and safely made the cut at 6 over despite struggling with his putter. Wyman played in Plummer’s group the first two rounds. “Mark could easily win it in the next couple of years,” said Wyman. “He’s still got the game to do it.” Also coming back for the final round are former champions Ricky Jones (9 over) and Andrew Slattery (even). … Brian Bilodeau of Auburn (Martindale) was one of seven players under par on Wednesday after his first round 80. Also rebounding from a tough first round to make the cut was Thornton Academy’s Armand Ouellette, 16, of Saco who shot 1-under 70 after a 78 on Tuesday.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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