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State Am final: Martel on the double

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 16. 2017 2:39AM

Mike Martel follows through during his 2-and-1 win in Saturday's State Am final. (Courtesy of NHGA)

KEENE - Being a multiple winner of the New Hampshire Golf Association State Amateur Championship puts a golfer in rare company. Mike Martel now stakes his claim.

Martel, a New Ipswich resident and member at Nashua Country Club, scored his second crown following a 2-and-1 victory over Hooksett's Matt Paradis in Saturday's 36-hole title match of the 114th State Am at Bretwood Golf Course.

Martel birdied five of six holes to close out the back nine of his first 18 holes to go 4-up and stretched the lead to 5-up through 29. Paradis took advantage of Martel falling back to Earth on down the stretch of the final 18, but the Concord CC member fell short after a few errant shots to halve the 17th hole, giving Martel the win.

Martel is the first player since the turn of the century to win multiple State Am titles, pairing Saturday's win with his crown in 2013. He's also the first to win multiple titles in a decade since the 1990s when Bob Mielcarz (four titles), Mike Flynn (two) and Craig Steckowych (two) each pulled it off.

"I think all aspects of my game have really improved (since 2013)," Martel said. "The second one is a bit sweeter knowing how special it is to have two. I was trying not to think about that out here this week. Both of them are pretty cool, really."

The knockout punch came early in the form of Martel's birdie spree. Martel was 1-down to Paradis following the 12th hole before one-upping Paradis on the next five. Martel added another birdie on No. 18 to take a four-hole lead and played steady enough to maintain his edge through the first 12 holes of Saturday's second round.

"I can get on runs like that, for sure," Martel said. "I hit some good drives and followed with good numbers into pins. It was really just good shot-making that turned into some close birdie putts."

Paradis, who finished runner-up for the second year in a row, said he was happy to be among the finalists again but was obviously frustrated he couldn't seal the deal. Paradis suffered a similar fate to that of last year's State Am final as he dug himself too much of a hole with early mistakes that Martel made him pay for later.

"I really just couldn't get a putt to fall all day," Paradis said. "I missed a few short ones to start out but wasn't worried about it. Coming down the stretch, though, I had a couple long ones that I thought were dead-center the entire time and then caught the edge of the cup."

Paradis did some capitalizing of his own on the back nine of the second round with pars on the 12th, 13th and 14th to get within two holes. Martel appeared vulnerable following misses on the three holes he lost, leaving Paradis hope to come all the way back.

"Once it even got down to 3-down, I was telling myself I had plenty of holes to play," Paradis said. "He was on fire for a while and I don't think I saw him make a bogey for 25-30 holes. I was surprised to see him miss a couple like that down the stretch after hitting it so well all day."

The 17th hole was the end to the match, but Martel believed his birdie on the par-4 15th saved his round. Martel rolled in a long birdie to halve the hole after Paradis sunk a birdie of his own to put the pressure on towards getting within a hole.

"I 100 percent expected Matt to make the birdie putt he had there, so I knew I had to make mine before his even went in," Martel said. "The mindset changes a bit once he makes it, but it was quite an easy putt. I just got the right edge, hit a good one and it went in."

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