Sam Barton of Kingswood Country Club tees off on the first hole during the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club earlier this month. Barton was the top qualifier under age 19, earning him the Union Leader Ty Abate Award.

Kingswood Golf Club’s Sam Barton will tell you he’s a much better golfer now than he was at this time a year ago, and sure looked that way in this year’s New Hampshire Amateur Golf Championship.

Barton, 19, qualified for match play by shooting 71-72-143 during the tournament’s two days of stroke play at Portsmouth Country Club. Then he won four matches before falling to The Shattuck’s Jake Hollander, 1-up, in the semifinals.

It was the fourth time Barton had competed in the State Am.

“Every year I’ve gone at least one round deeper than the year before, so I was hoping to make it to at least the quarterfinals,” Barton said. “Making it to the semis — that’s one round better than my goal. I shot in the high 70s during my practice round (at Portsmouth CC) so I was really happy with how I played in the tournament.

“I’d say my most memorable moment (in the State Am) came in the semifinals against Jake. I was 2-down heading to 17 and made a 35-foot birdie putt to bring it to 18. I didn’t win the match, but I made that putt to give myself a chance.”

Barton’s match-play victories came against Amherst CC’s Dylan Lortie (5 and 3), Passaconaway CC’s Jared LaMothe (2 and 1), Cochecho CC’s Michael Mahan (1-up) and Rochester CC’s Jamie Ferullo (2 and 1).

Barton, a Tuftonboro resident, finished stroke play in a three-way tie for second place with Green Meadow Golf Club’s Brandon Gillis and Breakfast Hill Golf Club’s Ryan Quinn. Barton’s 1-under-par 143 earned him the New Hampshire Union Leader’s Ty Abate Award, which is given to the golfer 19 or younger who posts the lowest State Am qualifying score. Abate is a former Union Leader sports writer known best for his golf coverage.

Barton, who will play golf for Lehigh University in the fall, graduated from Kingswood Regional High School in 2018. He won the NHIAA Division II individual championship in 2017, and the NHGA Junior Championship in 2018. He spent last year at the Junior Players Golf Academy in South Carolina.

“It was just golf practice and playing golf every day — I had no academic responsibilities,” Barton explained. “My goal was to land a spot on a Division I golf team. I started playing golf late and didn’t have that great of a resume.

“I think I got a lot better over my gap year. It helped me reached my goal.”

Barton will be presented the Ty Abate Award at The Leaders, the Union Leader’s annual sports awards dinner held each February.