Lebanon's Pelletier is State Am medalistBy JOE DUBALL
New Hampshire Union Leader
July 09. 2018 7:52PM
HANOVER — It’s always worth debating whether it’s better to start or finish strong. Pat Pelletier decided to play it both ways during his second round at the 115th New Hampshire Golf Association Amateur Championship on Monday.
Pelletier started and ended his round with a trio of birdies to come away with a 4-under-par 67 and earn stroke play medalist honors with a two-day score of 7-under at Hanover Country Club. The top honors in stroke play gives Pelletier, a member of Carter Country Club in Lebanon, the top seed in the 64-player match play field, which will play its opening-round matches today at 8 a.m.
Following Pelletier at 6-under were Concord Country Club’s Matt Paradis and Manchester Country Club’s Ryan Tombs while Souhegan Woods Golf Club of Amherst’s Brandon Gillis finished at 5-under.
“I’m not doing anything really spectacular, but nothing poor,” said Pelletier, who is a former Hanover CC member. “If I hit a bad shot, I’m really just keeping it in the right spot. I know the course so well so I just rip a lot of drivers and try to put it on the right spots on the greens with some of those blind shots into them.”
Pelletier’s scorecard on Monday was nearly identical to the one he handed in after Sunday’s opening round. The former Lebanon High and University of Rhode Island golfer posted seven birdies in either round, including three apiece on the final three holes of each round. The difference with Monday’s round came on the par-4, 418-yard second hole, where Pelletier posted a birdie as opposed the double-bogey he registered in Sunday’s opening round. Bookending Monday’s round with three consecutive birdies was hardly the plan for Pelletier.
“I’d say it’s just coincidence,” Pelletier said. “I’ve never been a fan of the first couple holes, which made shooting birdie, birdie, birdie pretty nice. The first hole and the third hole are pretty straightforward. The second is tough with an underrated green and awkward angle in. It was a big bonus (to make birdie) there after I made a mess of it yesterday.”
The showing comes with little surprise as Pelletier, a former professional golfer making his return to the State Am for the first time since 2010. The 30-year-old also came into the tournament with momentum after finishing as the low amateur at last month’s Vermont Open.
If not for Pelletier’s strong finish, Paradis and Tombs were in line to be co-medalists out of the same group. Paradis had a share of the lead at 4-under heading into Monday while Tombs entered a shot back at 3-under. Tombs bested Paradis in the second round though as he carded a 68 with bogey-free golf while Paradis played to a 69.
“It’s definitely not a bad thing” said Tombs of going head-to-head with Paradis. “It’s great to have someone right next to you and pushing you like that. If he makes birdie on one hole then you’re saying to yourself on the next hole ‘OK, I need to drop a birdie here.’”
While it was smooth sailing for Tombs, Paradis had to reel himself in after a slow start on Hanover’s back nine. The Southern New Hampshire University golfer was 1-over after nine holes and didn’t hit his first birdie until No. 18. The late birdie appeared to bring Paradis back to earth as he played a bogey-free front nine with three birdies. Paradis was able to stay even with Tombs on the leaderboard after dropping a birdie chip from the sand on No. 9 to cap his round.
“I hit a bunch of greens, but I didn’t really get anything close,” said Paradis, who added that his first nine featured a slew of three-putts. “I finally figured it out with a few wedge shots close and really got things going again.”
Other players to wrap up stroke play under par were Manchester CC’s Ryan Brown (2-under) and Nashua CC’s James Pleat (1-under).
All the under-par players enter today with match play experience, but Paradis and Tombs will go in trying to exorcise past State Am misfortune. Paradis has been especially snakebitten while falling in the State Am’s championship match the last two summers. Tombs, who was stroke play medalist at the 2016 State Am, has improved his match play fortunes each of the last three years, including a trip to last year’s quarterfinals.
“Match play is tough and a real grind no matter who you are playing,” Paradis said. “You have to take it one shot at a time and just battle it out. It’s a long week so you never know who you’re gonna match up against. As long as you’re hitting it well, that’s all you can control.”
Tombs expects himself and plenty of golfers to make some different decisions on the course in match play given Hanover’s quirky design and the NHGA’s ability to place tee boxes to create further challenge.
“There are a couple holes that you can be aggressive on that you might not want to be in stroke play,” Tombs said. “It’ll be interesting to see different shots and how people get after it.”
Gillis is the winner of the Ty Abate Award, presented annually to the golfer age 19 or under who posts the lowest score in the State Am during stroke play. Abate was a Union Leader sports writer best known for his golf coverage.
The Ty Abate Award is presented at The Leaders, the newspaper’s annual sports award dinner held every February.