Maine State Golf Association officials patted Andrew Slattery on the back and put a crystal vase in his hand. Television cameras and notebook-wielding reporters captured his every word.

The scene at the Woodlands club in Falmouth one year ago had all the proper earmarks. Slattery, relative newcomer to the game from West Minot, was a Maine Amateur champion, suddenly a household name in amateur golf at the state level.

Slattery still had that stunned look on his face, though. All the requisite pinch-me moments that accompany such a breakthrough win were yet to come.

“It finally sunk in. I think it sank in when the MSGA finally updated the list and I could see my name on there with all the past champions,” Slattery said. “Being added to that list is kind of when it hit me.”

He will find out this week if defending the crown is a more daunting task than winning it. Slattery, 26, leads the field into the 96th annual state amateur championship, a 54-hole, stroke-play affair that commences Tuesday at Waterville Country Club in Oakland.

Waterville is a year shy of a century old and 400 yards shorter than the modern Woodlands, which proved itself a bear to most of Maine’s best amateur golfers. Slattery won his title by shooting 71-71-72 for a three-day aggregate of 214. No player in the field broke 70 all week.

“You’re going to see a lot more people in contention at Waterville,” Slattery said. “It doesn’t favor the longer players. It’s not as tight as the Woodlands. I think you’re going to see a lot more low scores and a lot more names in play.”

Slattery described his approach to last summer’s showcase as “boring.” It was an unending and generally successful quest to make a string of pars.

While he hopes to capture that level of consistency once again, he is realistic enough to know that 2-under might not be enough to make him a two-time champion.

“It’s not very long. There are two or three holes that you know you need to get through without any problems, and if you do, you’re probably going to have a good day,” Slattery said. “There’s a lot of undulation in some of the greens. They’re kind of long and sloping.”

The tournament has traveled to seven different tracks throughout the state since Eric Higgins edged Toby Spector for the victory in 2007, the last time it was played at Waterville.

This is Waterville’s 10th turn as tournament host, dating back to the third state championship in 1920.

“I like the fact that it moves around. It’s really the only three-day, stroke-play event that we have,” Slattery said of the Maine Amateur. “If we had four or five every year, it might be different, but the fact that we only have one a year … If the U.S. Open were played at Chambers Bay every year, it wouldn’t be as special.”

Par-70 Waterville plays at 6,442 yards from the tips. By comparison, Woodlands measured at 6,848 yards.

The only substantial water on the course is on the third and seventh holes, and the longest hole on the course is the 499-yard, par-5 ninth.

“I’ve played it at least once a year the past few years,” Slattery said. “It’s going to be a challenge. It’s similar to Martindale in a way, which is good for me.”

Ricky Jones, Mark Plummer and Ron Brown are the only other past champions in the field. Jones won his third Maine Amateur at Augusta CC in 2013.

Plummer has won it 13 times, and although he hasn’t been a contender in recent years, Slattery suspects that the shorter track and some local knowledge will help.

“A place like Waterville will put a guy like Mark Plummer in the mix, and I’m not sure any of us want to see his name on the board the final day,” Slattery said.

Slattery will be paired with mid-amateur champion Keith Patterson II and senior champion Lowell Watson in the 7 a.m. group Tuesday. He will tee off at 10:40 a.m. in Wednesday’s second round.

The field of 132 players will be cut to the top 40 and ties after 36 holes.

Joe Baker of Oxford, who finished sixth a year ago, is grouped with two other contenders, Sam Grindle and Joe Alvarez, at 7:20 a.m. Tuesday. Two-time state junior champion Will Kannegeiser of Minot hits the course at 7:30 with Greg Martin and Scott Sirois.

Other local players to watch are Brian Bilodeau and Craig Chapman of Auburn and Chris Cloutier of Lewiston.

Slattery won a year ago when Joe Walp missed a 15-foot birdie putt at 18 that would have forced a playoff. He was the first tri-county player to win the amateur since Dan Ladd of Norway, who coincidentally captured his title at Waterville in 1993.

“I’ve been hitting it better at the right time,” Slattery said of his chances to defend the trophy. “I played at Woodlands recently and shot 71 again. I’m hitting a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. Putts are going in. I’m feeling good about myself and looking forward to playing the best that I can.”

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