It's Salo vs. Leavitt in NH Golf Association State Amateur Championship
GOFFSTOWN — Trailing Damon Salo of New Ipswich by three holes with just five holes to play in his semifinal match of the 111th New Hampshire Golf Association State Amateur Championship at Stonebridge Country Club, Hooksett teenager Matt Paradis needed to make something happen.
He came up with perhaps the shot of the tournament on No. 14 and an eagle.
But it wasn’t quite enough.
Paradis cut the lead down to two holes, but would get no closer and Salo, who plays out of Bretwood Golf Club, ended the match with a par on the 17th for a 2 and 1 triumph to advance to his first State Am final.
“I didn’t hit the ball as well today as I have the past couple of days,” said Paradis, who graduated from Manchester High School Central in June and plays out of Derryfield Country Club in Manchester. “And Damon played unreal. He didn’t make too many mistakes.”
Salo takes on Joe Leavitt of Atkinson, the 2012 State Am champion, in today’s 36-hole title match beginning at 8 a.m.
“Joe’s a good buddy of mine and he’s been in this position before and won it,” Salo said. “He definitely has the edge experience-wise, but I’ve been playing well, too. We usually have good matches when we play.”
Salo’s previous-best results before this year at the State Am were getting to the Round of 16 a couple of times. He went that far last year before losing — to Leavitt — 1-up.
Leavitt and Salo each won a pair of Friday matches on the way to today’s title duel.
Leavitt knocked out one of his Atkinson Resort & Country Club buddies, Boston College golfer Nick Pandelena, 2-up in his morning quarterfinals match.
Then he beat Jim Cilley of Penacook, the 2011 champ who plays out of Pembroke Pines, in the semifinals, 5 and 4, in the afternoon.
“Joe was rock solid,” Cilley said. “I don’t think he missed a shot.”
Well, maybe one.
Leavitt pulled his first shot of the match, lost his ball in the rough and had to take a drop. He had a bogey and lost the hole. But the slow start didn’t bother him a bit: He lost little else the rest of the day.
He takes aim at his second title in three years this morning.
“I won’t be nervous at all,” Leavitt said. “I live for this stuff. But the 36-hole final is a grind.”
Salo beat Nick MacDonald, out of Hanover Country Club, 3 and 2, in his morning match.
The championship pairs a couple of college golfers who took different routes to this year’s State Am.
Salo will be a senior and captain at Johnson & Wales in Miami, which finished third in the NAIA national championships in May. He had been busy at a music festival in Indiana, at a wedding and entertaining out-of-state friends and had not played for four weeks before the tournament began.
Leavitt will be a junior at the University of Rhode Island. He’s already won the NHGA Players Invitational Championship, the NHGA Tournament of Champions and the Joseph F. Healey Memorial Tournament in Massachusetts this season.
Paradis, 18, is heading to Florida to attend a firefighter academy in Melbourne, Fla., and work on his game with an eye on playing in college. He had been rolling through the tournament and said he got much out of it.
“Overall, I gained a lot of experience and it was good for my confidence,” Paradis said. “It’s one more thing to add to my resume.”
The eagle helped put a little pressure on Salo.
Paradis hit his driver on the par-5 No. 14 about 280 yards and had 255 yards to the hole. He hit his 3-wood to within two feet of the pin.
Salo made a birdie on the hole. Paradis one-upped him.
On No. 15, Paradis lipped out a 15-foot birdie putt, which would have amped up the pressure a bit more.
Salo held on for the win.