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July 23. 2013 9:01PM

NH Open

NH golfers make mark at NH Open


Jim Cilley of Penacook, left, shakes hands with Joe Leavitt of Atkinson after they finished their round during the New Hampshire Open at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Nicholas Pandelena of Atkinson chips onto the 18th green during the New Hampshire Open at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

GOFFSTOWN — Nicholas Pandelena of Atkinson is never going to be satisfied until he reaches the top. Take Tuesday, for example.

Pandelena, 19, started his round scorching the Stonebridge Country Club course, converting six birdies through the first seven holes. Yet after finishing his round five-under and ending up seven-under overall as the low amateur winner of the New Hampshire Open, he was still pondering the three pars he made on the front nine.

"I could have, should have birdied them all," he said. "I just lipped them out."

Maybe he had good reason to review those makeable birdies because he ended up in a four-way tie for second place (70-67-137), just four shots behind winner Jesse Larson (68-65-133) of Mendon, Vt.

Inclement weather Tuesday forced the NHGA to scratch the two-day format from a 54-hole event to a 36-hole tourney.

After making the turn with a stellar six-under 29 score, Pandelena parred every hole on the backside but the 14th, where he settled for a bogey.

"Overall, it was a good day, a good round," he said. "I reached 15 greens and my putts were falling."

Standing at 6-foot-4, you might guess he was a great all-around basketball player in high school. But it would turn out to be a wrong guess.

"I actually was a (hockey) defenseman for St. John's Prep," he said. Delve further into his career and, much to his chagrin, he'll tell you how close his team was to winning the 2011 Division I-A Massachusetts state title at the TD Garden in Boston during his junior season.

"We were leading Malden Catholic 3-1 and ended up losing 4-3 in overtime," said Pandelena, pondering that thought just like he did minutes before about missing three makeable birdies.

"My senior year we lost to BC High in the semifinals, but I did score a goal in my last game," he said. "It would have been nice to win it all, but scoring that goal was a good way to close out my career."

A sophomore-to-be at Boston College and majoring in economics, Pandelena said he's going to enjoy the competition on the collegiate level. "The ACC is one of the best conferences to play in the country," he said. "After that, I'd like to turn pro."

Playing in the New Hampshire Open was a measuring stick, said Pandelena as well as 2012 NHGA State Am winner Joe Leavitt of Atkinson and 2011 State Am champ Jim Cilley of Penacook, all amateurs.

"I've won two (low) amateur titles in this tournament, the first one in 2009 when I was 15 years old and last year," said Leavitt (72-70-142) who ended two-under in an 18th place tie.

"The competition against the pros is great," said Leavitt. "I mean I'm walking off the course with a two-under score and I'm in 18th place. It's crazy to say, but that's the competition. You're playing against some of the best pros around and you're comparing yourself to them."

Winning the amateur title at age 15 in the New Hampshire Open did wonders for Leavitt. "Showed I could play and gave me confidence to continue playing," he said. "You're not going to know how good you are until you play against the best. Believe me, playing at this level is tough."

Leavitt recently transferred from Florida Southern to the University of Rhode Island, where he has three seasons left to play with the Rams. "I was homesick and wanted to come back to New England," he said. "Simple as that."

Leavitt said this season was his fifth New Hampshire Open. "This tournament allowed me to get my name out there," he said. "When you win low-am at age 15, you're starting to make a name for yourself," said Leavitt, who graduated from Central Catholic of Lawrence, Mass.

Leavitt said New Hampshire has many outstanding amateur players. "You look at this tournament," he said. "Jim Cilley is a State Am champ. Josh Chamberlain (of New Boston) is a Mid-Amateur champion, Ryan Kohler (of Alstead) is a stroke play champ and Nick won low am today. These guys are all great players and we make each other better."

jhabib@unionleader.com


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