If you’re old enough to remember the 2003 New Hampshire Amateur Golf Championship, you’ll recall that Lake Sunapee Country Club’s Austin Eaton III took home the trophy by defeating Derryfield Country Club’s Danny Arvanitis in the final at Portsmouth Country Club.
The State Am returns to Portsmouth CC for this year’s tournament, which begins Monday. Eaton’s State Am victory in 2003 was a springboard to bigger things. He won the 2004 USGA Mid-Amateur Championship, which earned him a spot in the 2005 Masters. Eaton also advanced to the semifinals of the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Penn.
Whatever happened to Eaton? He’s living in Lakeville, Minn., where he sells residential real estate. These days, golf takes a back seat to work and his family — Eaton and his wife Pamela have two boys — but he has played in the Minnesota State Am three times.
Eaton said at one point he flirted with the idea of turning professional.
“I considered it,” he said. “But I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase.”
Eaton, who grew up in Sutton, was 34 when he prevailed at Portsmouth CC. He said he entered the tournament that year overflowing with confidence.
“I had been playing a lot of competitive golf over the weeks leading up to the State Am,” he said. “I was definitely competitive-tough at that point. From Day 1, I felt it was an event I could contend for.
“Danny was one of the big dogs then, and we had a good final. I think it went 37 or 38 holes. I was 3-up in the morning, then we took a break for lunch. He came on strong in the afternoon and I struggled. He went 1-up with two holes to play and then I think he was charitable, which allowed me to get back in it. I think I won it with a birdie on the first playoff hole.”
Eaton, 50, caught a break when the 2003 State Am was moved from Owl’s Nest to Portsmouth CC, which was his home course when he played on the University of New Hampshire golf team. He was UNH’s team captain in 1990 and 1991.
Eaton still has his State Am trophy and said he finds himself reflecting on that week at Portsmouth CC often.
“No doubt,” he said. “It was memorable for so many reasons. That was a big win for me. My biggest win to date. And my dad caddied for me at least the last two rounds.
“Portsmouth is such a great place to play. I hope it’s a great event this week. I’ll try to follow up on everything.”
Paradis out of Am
A week ago Portsmouth CC’s Craig Steckowych and The Golf Club of New England’s Brett Wilson both called Hooksett’s Matt Paradis the favorite in this year’s State Am, but they’ve both had to change their opinion.
Paradis, who won last year’s State Am, has decided not to compete in the tournament.
“Not this year,” Paradis,” said via text message. “Looking forward to other tournaments and resting a nagging injury.”
Paradis, a member at Concord CC, lost in the State Am final in 2016 and 2017 before his breakthrough victory over Carter CC’s Pat Pelletier last summer.
Baldwin misses cut
Laconia native Mark Baldwin was in the field at this weekend’s PGA 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn. Baldwin, 35, who turned pro in 2006, eagled the par-4 15th hole in Thursday’s opening round. He shots two rounds of par-71 for a two-round total of 142. The cut fell at 139.
Not many golfers get to taste the kind of success former New Castle resident Nick McLaughlin did in 2015, when he won five amateur events before turning pro. That year, McLaughlin became the first player to win the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links, the Massachusetts Amateur and the New England Amateur in the same calendar year, and was featured in the “Faces in the Crowd” section of Sports Illustrated.
McLaughlin regained his amateur status last year and made a triumphant return to the amateur circuit by winning last weekend’s Seacoast Amateur Golf Championship. Portsmouth CC’s Eric Evans and Rochester CC’s Kevin Strong tied for second, three strokes behind McLaughlin.
Kish, teammates win
Danny Kish, the assistant professional at Atkinson CC, shot a 2-under-par 68 to lead all professionals in the annual NHPGA Pro-Lady Championship played Tuesday at Derryfield CC. Kish and his amateur partners, Allison Wilkins, Barb Hecimovich and Cortney Tilley, won the tournament’s gross division and were declared this year’s champions.
The Rochester CC foursome led by assistant professional Brett Smestad prevailed in the net division. His partners were Joan Cyr, June Ferland and Lisa Strong. The group finished 16 under par in the best-ball-of-two format.