AUBURN — Mother Nature played nice for most of Thursday’s Maine State Golf Association Match Play Invitational championship match between Drew Powell and Jeff Cole.

Other than a drizzle on the first few holes, the morning at Fox Ridge Golf Club was mostly cloudy until the players reached the 17th and 18th holes, when a steady rain started to fall.

It might have come at a perfect time for Powell.

On the 18th green, with Powell leading 1-up, each player faced an important birdie putt. Powell’s was for the win, and he gave it a good bid but the ball rolled 3 feet past the hole. The pressure shifted to Cole, whose 25-foot attempt could extend the match. The Portland resident hit it right on line but the ball stopped 3 inches short. Powell then converted his short par attempt to become the 2021 MSGA Match Play Invitational champion.

Cole said didn’t give the rain enough consideration when he hit the putt.

“I didn’t factor the wetness on the green into that one because I never questioned if I could get it to the hole,” Cole said. “I hit it on the exact line I had it, it was dead-center to the hole.”

The Match Play Invitational is the first individual MSGA championship that Powell has won.

“I won the four-ball championship with my friend Will (Kannegieser), but it really feels nice to win an individual event,” the Bangor resident said. “I had come close a lot of times in Maine Juniors and Maine Amateurs, it feels nice to finally get a win.”

The match was tied heading to the par-5 17th hole. Off the tee, both players’ shots landed in the right rough. Cole played his second shot first, and using his 3-wood hit the ball just in front of the green. Powell, meanwhile, hit an iron to the front edge of the green. After Cole chipped onto the green, Powell rolled his eagle attempt 4 feet past the hole. Cole missed his birdie putt, while Powell sank his to take a 1-up lead heading to the final, decisive hole.

Early in the match, it appear that the Cole was going to win before players played much of the back nine. Powell’s putter did not get the 7 a.m. wakeup call — he missed par attempts on No. 2, No. 4 No. 5, No. 6 — and Cole built a commanding 4-up advantage through six holes.

“I was playing solid. I knew he was missing a few (putts), but hats off to him, he played the last 13 holes in 5-under,” Cole said. “I didn’t hand (the victory) to him, but I got outplayed.”

Cole missed a long birdie attempt on No. 7, leaving an opening that Powell took advantage of by draining a 25-foot birdie putt to begin chipping away at Cole’s lead.

“(The putter) was slow to wake up, that’s for sure,” Powell said. “Like I said (Wednesday), I was struggling with the speed (of the greens), and (Thursday) I was struggling early on with the speed. I just had to keep with it. Luckily that one on seven dropped and it sort of kick-started everything.”

In the middle of the fairway on the par-4 eighth hole, Cole chunked a wedge and had to pitch onto the green with his third shot. He missed the par attempt and conceded the hole to Powell.

“I tried to get really cute with the wedge because I thought he was in there close,” Cole said. “Even after that, it’s OK (I still have a 2-up lead). He played nine beautifully and he hit a really great wedge (to the green).”

Both players laid up on the par-5 ninth hole, and Powell made his short birdie attempt while Cole missed his birdie, and the lead was down to 1-up.

Powell tied the match on the 12th hole when he stuck his approach within 2-and-half feet. Cole missed his birdie attempt and then notched a par. He then conceded the hole to Powell and the match was tied for the first time since the opening hole.

“I had about 95 yards, which normally would be a 60-degree wedge, but I decided to hit my 56 (degree sand wedge) because (the ground was) wet; I didn’t want to take a huge divot,” Powell said. “I took my sand wedge and hit a nice easy shot, and it came off perfect, how I wanted.”

Powell was surprised Cole gave him the hole without forcing him to putt for birdie. Cole knew Powell wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.

“I thought it was going for (a two),” Cole said of Powell’s approach shot. “I knew I had to make my birdie putt, but I didn’t make it. I hit my putt and looked at his, it was (close to the hole), I am not making him putt it. I don’t know why I putted my par putt.”

On the 14th green Cole had a costly miss on a short par attempt. Seeing his opponent’s miss didn’t faze Powell, and he made his putt to take a 1-up advantage.

Powell’s lead didn’t last long. Both players hit their approach shots on the 15th hole inside 10 feet. Cole made his 8-foot birdie while Powell’s 5-footer veered offline as it got near the hole and the match was tied again.

“I made one (long) putt (all day) — on 15 after I missed a really short one (on the 14th hole),” Cole said. “It was the only putt I made all day outside of 5 feet.”

After graduating from Duke University earlier this year, where he was a member of the varsity golf team, Powell isn’t planning to go through the grind of becoming a professional player. He recently did get a job at the Golf Channel as a researcher providing facts and notes to the broadcasters.

He doesn’t plan to slip his match play victory into those notes in an upcoming broadcast.

“No, I think I will omit that,” Powell said with a chuckle. “I am pretty early in the job, I don’t want to screw it up.”

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