CONCORD — Atkinson’s Mat Gover opened the New Hampshire Golf Association’s Junior Championship by shooting a 1-under-par 71 at Beaver Meadow Golf Course on Monday. That’s not bad, especially since golf may not be his best sport.
Gover, 16, plans to transfer from Timberlane Regional High School to Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass., where, in addition to continuing his golf career this fall, he’ll be a goalie on the school’s hockey team. He posted a .947 save percentage last season while playing for the New Hampshire Avalanche U16 team.
Which sport does he plan to play in college?
“It’s up in the air right now,” said Gover, who is alone at the top of the leaderboard and will carry a two-stroke lead into the second day of the three-day tournament. “I’m just trying to get as many opportunities in both sports as I can.”
Gover, who plays out of the Atkinson Resort and Country Club, advanced to the State Am semifinals at Portsmouth Country Club earlier this month. He was eliminated by Passaconaway’s John DeVito, who went on to win the tournament.
Gover began Monday’s round with birdies on the first two holes, but three-putted both par-3 holes on the front nine and was even heading to the 10th tee. He made two more birdies in his final nine holes.
“I would love to win this tournament, but there’s some really good golfers in the field,” Gover said. “It’s gonna be a battle. It’s not gonna be easy.”
Amherst Country Club’s Gunnar Senatore is one of those good golfers in the field. Senatore finished Monday’s round with a 1-over-par 73 and holds sole possession of second place.
Nashua Country Club’s Bryce Zimmerman and Atkinson Resort and Country Club’s Jack Pepin are tied for third at 75.
Brian Adams, the runner-up to Sam Barton in this tournament last year, shot a 4-over-par 76 Monday. He was at even-par through nine holes, but finished his round with bogeys on the par-5 16th, the par-3 17th and the par-4 18th. His only birdie came on the par-4 seventh hole.
Adams, 14, will be a sophomore at Phillips Exeter Academy. He’s playing out of Breakfast Hill Golf Club, the site for this year’s New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championship.
“I finished with three bogeys, so not great,” Adams said. “Other than that I was pretty happy with how I played.
“I’d say there’s at least 10 or 15 who have a shot at winning. I think it’ll take a couple over (par) to win this.”
Like Adams, Laconia Country Club’s Evan Rollins, North Conway Country Club’s Ben Dougherty and Amherst Country Club’s Colin McCaigue finished at 76 Monday.
The NHGA Junior Championship no longer uses match play to determine its champion. Instead, there will be another 18 holes of stroke play Tuesday and Wednesday. The field will be divided into three flights following Tuesday’s round.
Gover is among those who preferred the previous format.
“I love match play,” Gover said. “It gives you a chance to hit shots you normally wouldn’t. You can take chances and at worst it costs you a hole.
“This is going to be tight right to the finish. Nobody is going to walk away with this tournament.”