Nashua native John DeVito was not familiar with the Portsmouth Country Club course and did not have much prior success in the New Hampshire Golf Association Amateur Championship to draw from entering the 116th edition of the five-day tournament.
What the Passaconaway CC of Litchfield member did have is confidence and, eventually, the right caddie by his side. DeVito, a 2008 Nashua South graduate, used both to win his first State Am on July 13 in what was his 10th time playing in the tournament.
For capturing the State Am crown, DeVito was named the July Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center/Express MED Athlete of the Month Award by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.
DeVito, who resides in Methuen, Mass., came into the State Am fresh off winning the Lowell (Mass.) City Tournament on June 22. While he had not played Portsmouth CC since high school and never previously advanced past the second round of match play in the State Am before, DeVito said his success in the Lowell tournament aided him in the early match play rounds.
“I was down a few matches early in the Round of 64 and 32,” DeVito said. “I was down three through seven (holes) in both, something like that. I had to come back and win.”
DeVito, 29, came back to defeat John Duarte of Green Meadow Golf Club, 2-and-1, in the Round of 64 before doing the same in the Round of 32 to earn his 19-hole triumph over The Golf Club of New England’s Nick Hampoian.
DeVito said losing to Duarte in the Round of 64 would have been especially disheartening because the day he was playing that match, his older brother, Chris, was traveling from New York City to come caddie for him the rest of the week.
“I can’t give enough thanks to my brother for taking time off work to caddie for me,” DeVito said. “He was a huge part of my success that week. It was a lot of long days waking up at 5 a.m. to drive up there but having him by my side the entire time definitely helped.”
Chris is not a huge golfer but DeVito said simply having someone he knows and enjoys talking to about both golf and other topics greatly aided him through the latter part of the tournament. Chris also served as his younger brother’s caddie when the latter won the Lowell tournament in June.
“Having him there for support and knowing we had some success prior to that definitely helped,” DeVito said.
Aside from his brother, DeVito’s biggest asset throughout the tournament was his putter. DeVito said he made all of his 3, 4 and 5-foot putts in the tournament.
“If I could just get a putter in my hand, I had a pretty good feeling about it,” DeVito said.
DeVito beat Concord Country Club member Will McLaughlin, 4-and-2, in the Round of 16 and Bald Peak Colony Club’s Andrew Purse, 3-and-2, in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinals, where he played Atkinson Resort and Country Club’s Mat Gover.
DeVito had a 1-up lead on the 16-year-old Gover at the turn on his way to a 2-and-1 victory.
“I can’t say enough about how good that kid is going to be,” DeVito said of Gover. “He was so solid throughout. I had to bring my best game to beat him and pretty much everyone else I played.”
DeVito capped what he said was his most consistent week of golf this summer with a 7-and-6 win over 22-year-old The Shattuck Golf Club member Jake Hollander. DeVito won four of the match’s first five holes and 11 of the 30 he played. DeVito credited his hot start in the match to sinking two 10-foot putts to win the first two holes.
Despite his growing lead, DeVito and his brother acted as if he and Hollander were all square throughout the match.
“(Chris) was pretty key with the psychology part of keeping my mental state where it needs to be throughout,” DeVito said. “He definitely had the same game plan throughout as far as how to approach and the mindset going forward — just trying to tell myself it’s never over even if I’m up that much, just trying to keep hitting good shots and not letting (Hollander) back in the match.”
After earning par on the 30th hole to clinch his victory, DeVito and his brother could not believe he had finally won the tournament on his 10th try.
“The amount of times I’ve gotten knocked out in the Round of 64 even are countless,” DeVito said. “Probably five times or so I lost my first match. ... To get all the way to the end and finally win, it’s awesome.”
While he had trouble fathoming it in the moment, DeVito said the fact he is now among the winners of the prestigious State Am tournament has indeed sunk in.
“Nobody can take that away from me that I won that,” DeVito said. “Having my name on the trophy and the trophy at my house is a nice reminder.”
Other athletes considered for the July honor were golfer and Plaistow resident Jack Pepin, Goffstown 11-12-year-old Little League All-Star team members Nate Kiah and Adam Lafond, Nashua Silver Knights baseball player Patrick Harrington and Keene Swamp Bats baseball player Kyle Ball.
Pepin, a Atkinson Resort and CC member and junior at Timberlane Regional, won the NHGA Boys’ Junior Championship with a three-day score of 219 at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in July, finishing three strokes ahead of runner-up Colin McCaigue.
Kiah and Lafond combined for a one-hitter in Game 1 of the Little League best-of-three state championship series and contributed at the plate in Goffstown’s title-clinching Game 2 triumph over Portsmouth. Kiah pitched three innings of hitless relief, walking one and striking out eight to secure Goffstown’s 5-2 Game 1 win. In Goffstown’s 11-4 championship-clinching Game 2 victory, Kiah registered two hits and a walk.
Lafond started Game 1 of the state championship series, allowing two unearned runs on one hit and five walks and struck out seven batters on 76 pitches over three innings.
In Game 2, Lafond contributed to Goffstown’s three-run fourth inning that gave it a 4-3 lead over Portsmouth with his RBI double and he finished the game with three hits, three runs scored and two RBIs.
Harrington, a right-handed pitcher from Bedford, registered 3.05 ERA over 20 ⅔ innings in five Futures Collegiate Baseball League July games for the Silver Knights.
Ball, a Stratham resident, batted .283 (28-for-99) with a home run, 14 runs scored, 11 RBIs and five walks over 25 July New England Collegiate Baseball League games with the Keene Swamp Bats.
Previous 2019 winners: January, Mike Robinson, Bedford (hockey); February, Brooke Kane, Derry (basketball); March, Cody Ball, Londonderry (basketball); April, Dempsey Arsenault, New Hampton (lacrosse); May, Cody Morissette, Exeter (baseball); June, Grace Devanny, Concord (outdoor track).
To submit a nomination for future Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader Sports Department at firstname.lastname@example.org and enter “Athlete of the Month” in the subject line.
Athlete of the Month recipients are honored at the annual Leaders: A Celebration of Sports Champions event held in February.