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Jim Cilley of the Canterbury Woods Country Club works out of the rough as he approachs the 18th hole during Tuesday's play of the 2013 State Amateur Championship at the Golf Club of New England in Stratham. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

Cooper, James Pleat on course at State Am's 2nd day

STRATHAM — The format for this year's New Hampshire State Amateur Golf Championship will change for today's third round, and the look of the course will likely change with it.

Golf Club of New England member Brett Wilson said the 64 golfers who survived two days of stroke play could see a layout that's drastically different when match play begins this morning.

"I'm confident we won't be playing the same golf course tomorrow," Wilson said Tuesday, after advancing to match play with a two-day total of 153 on his home course. "On this course they can make long par 4s short par 4s. They can make long par 5s short par 5s. They can turn par 4s into par 5s. There's a lot of options at this golf course. We saw it last year at the (USGA) Junior Amateur (also played at the Golf Club of New England).

"Invariably the golf association changes up the golf course. They like to create those match-play situations. It will be fun."

Portsmouth Country Club's Joe Cooper and Nashua Country Club's James Pleat earned co-medalist honors by posting the lowest score during the two days of stroke play. Each shot a 1-under-par 143.

Cooper is a Wayland, Mass., resident who spends his summers in Hampton. He plays college golf at Bowling Green.

Cooper has played in the Mass. State Am, but this is his first State Am in New Hampshire.

Pleat shot a 2-under-par 70 on Monday, and finished with a 73 Tuesday. He was the medalist at the 2011 State Am, which was played on his home course.

"I think I hit it just as good (Tuesday)," Pleat said. "Couple putts here and there didn't go in. I'm pretty happy after two rounds, for sure."

After a round of match play slices the field to 32 today, the tournament will feature two rounds of match play on both Thursday and Friday before Saturday's scheduled 36-hole final.

The cut came at 162 and Atkinson resident Joe Leavitt, last year's State Am champion, is among those who qualified for match play. He followed up his 6-over-par 78 on Monday with a 75 Tuesday.

Leavitt, 19, spent his freshman season playing golf at Florida Southern University, but has transferred and will play for the University of Rhode Island next season. He attended high school at Central Catholic in Lawrence, Mass., and plays out of Atkinson Resort & Country Club.

"At this point it's all about getting into match play," Leavitt said. "Most of my biggest wins have been match play. It suits my game. I'm looking forward to it."

Leavitt is one of five past champions who qualified for this year's tournament. The others are Craig Steckowych (Portsmouth Country Club), Dan Arvanitis (Derryfield Country Club), Phil Pleat (Nashua Country Club) and Jim Cilley (Canterbury Woods Country Club). Like Leavitt, the other four past champions played their way to match play. Phil Pleat is James' father.

Bretwood Golf Club's Chelso Barrett won the Ty Abate Award, which is presented annually to the golfer age 19 or younger who posts the lowest score in match play. Barrett, 18, finished stroke play with a 147.

Rochester Country Club's Jamie Ferullo began the day in second place, one shot behind Pleat, but had to battle his way to a 77 Tuesday. Ferullo helped Spaulding High School in Rochester win Division II hockey championships in 2006 and 2007, and then played at Providence College.

Concord Country Club's Dave Mattson made a hole in one on the 14th hole, a 176-yard par 3. Mattson shot a 186 and failed to make the cut.

Today's first match is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.

"Even if it's someone you've never heard of they can still beat you," James Pleat said. "Definitely be wary of whoever you're playing because there are a lot of good players out here. Anything can happen in match play."