HUDSON — There seems to be something about the New Hampshire Golf Association’s Stroke Play Championship that suits Hanover Country Club’s Pat Pelletier, who’s making a habit of running away with the event.
Pelletier entered the final day of this year’s three-day, 72-hole tournament trailing by three shots, but took the lead in his morning round Thursday and then pulled away in the afternoon to post a six-shot victory over Londonderry resident Taylor Simpson at Green Meadow Golf Club’s Jungle Course.
Pelletier, a 31-year-old Lebanon resident, was 13 under par for the tournament (275), and shot under par in each of his four rounds. He won last year’s Stroke Play Championship by nine shots at Canterbury Woods Country Club.
“I love stroke play,” Pelletier said. “Four rounds just weeds out the field. Look at how many guys were under par after Round 1 (nine), then I think only three finished under par (for the tournament). The people who play the best that week will ultimately be your top three, top five players.
“I like match play, but I feel like someone could get hot against you even though you might outplay them for the other part of the tournament. You kinda run into a buzz saw sometimes with match play.”
Pelletier, who played golf for one semester at Southern New Hampshire University before he transferred to the University of Rhode Island, was the buzz saw Thursday. He had a three-shot lead entering the tournament’s final 18 holes and may have played his best golf of the tournament over the final nine holes, when he made seven pars, one birdie and capped the tournament with an eagle on the par-5 18th hole.
Simpson, who was playing out of The Oaks Golf Links in Somersworth, had a one-shot lead after 36 holes and shot 73-71 Thursday to finish at 281. The Oaks’ Harvin Groft was third at 285 and Maplewood Golf Course’s Sam Natti finished fourth at 288. Groft had to overcome his 4-over-par 76 on Wednesday.
“When I got to the back nine and finally saw the leaderboard I think I had a four-shot lead,” Pelletier said. ”I kind of had the mindset if you shoot par on the back but keep giving yourself looks you’re going to force him to shoot 5-under to beat you or 4-under to tie. I executed on the back. I played really well on the back.”
Simpson, whose sister Aliza played basketball for the University of New Hampshire, struggled on his first nine holes Thursday morning (no birdies, three bogeys), but said he was happy with how he played overall on the tournament’s final day.
“I think I played solid,” he said. “I just ran into a guy who lit it up. There was no wiggle room with him. He didn’t make any mistakes.”
Dan Arvanitis (Derryfield CC), Matt Burroughs (Derryfield CC) and Matt Paradis (Concord CC) finished in a tie for fifth place at 289.
Pelletier turned pro in 2011, but regained his amateur status in 2017. He was the runner-up in the 2018 NHGA Amateur Championship, finished eighth in this year’s New England Amateur and was fourth in this year’s Vermont Amateur Championship. He said the tournament format is one of the reasons he elected to play in the Vermont State Am rather than the one in New Hampshire. The Vermont State Am, like the NHGA Stroke Play Championship, features 36 holes of stroke play, a cut and then another 36 holes of stroke play. The NHGA Amateur Championship shifts to match play after 36 holes of stroke play.
Pelletier said some improved putting Thursday was one of the main reasons he prevailed this week.
“I made an eight-footer, a six-footer, a 10-footer — I haven’t made those all year,” he said. “Pretty much tap-ins are what I’ve been making all year, so it was finally nice to see the ball go in. They’re such round-savers when you’re making 10-footers to save a par, or a 15-footer for birdie. I feel comfortable with my game right now.”