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July 27. 2013 3:23PM

Top NH Golfers Tee Off

Allen Lessels' NH Golf: Harrity, 'kids' ready for women's State Am

Dana Harrity of Rye won her first New Hampshire Women's Golf Association State Amateur championship at Abenaqui Country Club, her home course, in 1982.

She bookended that initial title with her latest at Hanover Country Club last year and the state's premier female golfer over the last three decades has won exactly half of the championships contended in the last 30 years.

But that sparkling resume doesn't make her the favorite heading into this year's 54-hole women's State Am, scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Nashua Country Club, Harrity feels.

"I'm playing fine and I'm the defending champion," Harrity said last week. "But I feel as though this year's tournament really belongs to the younger players."

The list of top contenders starts with Tracy Martin, Harrity feels, and includes folks such as Tara Watt, who won the tournament in 2011, Tracy Marshall, Lisanne Schmidt of Grantham and her younger sisters, Alex and Colette, among others.

"There are some great kids out there," Harrity said. "We're very fortunate to have some really nice kids playing."

One young player who is not entered this week at the State Am is Lauren Thibodeau, the 13-year-old out of Hampstead and Windham Country Club who won her third straight junior title last month.

Thibodeau finished 10th last year at Hanover and shot a 75 on the second day of the tournament.

Martin plays out of Nashua and tied for second in the New England Amateur earlier this month at Renaissance in Haverhill, Mass. She's from Tyngsborough, Mass., and starred at Bishop Guertin of Nashua. She just wrapped up her collegiate career at the University of Richmond with the second-lowest career scoring average (78.44) in the program's history.

"She hasn't played the State Am in ages and she's playing really well," Harrity said.

Harrity gets no argument from Nashua Country Club pro Dick Dichard on the assessment of Martin as the favorite.

"She's playing well and she definitely knows the greens," Dichard said. "And, in fact, she's really stepped up her game in the last month. She's breaking par regularly and she had a hole-in-one and the best round I know of going back to the Pat Bradley days."

Martin shot a 66 at Nashua a couple of weeks ago and that may be a record, Dichard said.

"I can't remember that Pat Bradley (the LPGA standout and a World Golf Hall of Famer) shot a 66," Dichard said.

Marshall, who is a member at Abenaqui with Harrity, led last year's tournament on the final hole and needed a par to close it out She ran into all kinds of problems and carded a 10 on it.

"She got stuck in a bad spot and didn't think clearly about how to get out of it," Harrity said. "She learned from that and she hits it a long way. She's a great kid. She's a contender. She's going to be a factor."

Harrity, 54, could well be, too, of course.

"I think I'm going to be competitive, but I just don't know," she said. "I didn't play well in New Englands, but I wasn't feeling well and you never know. I have a tendency to play better in State Ams then in normal tournaments. I think I concentrate harder."

She gives up yardage off the tee to some of the big-hitting younger players, but feels Nashua suits her game.

"I don't feel you have to be too long and I think I can score well there," she said. "The greens are quite quick. It will be about chipping and putting and obviously if you're going into them with wedges, it's much better than if you're going in with a 6-iron, but it's still doable."

Lisanne Schmidt doesn't count Harrity out.

"Dana's just a phenomenal player," she said. "She's so consistent. She doesn't shoot 65, but she's very consistent and so good at what she does. I love playing in golf tournaments with her. She really loves the game. It's great to have a role model like Dana and for her to win the tournament is totally doable. You don't need to be 25 to win the state tournament."

There are 84 golfers in the tournament and after the first 36 holes the field will be cut to 60 and ties for the final 18.

alessels@unionleader.com On twitter: @AllenLessels


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