BRETTON WOODS — The New Hampshire Golf Association State Am will come down to the tournament’s top two seeds, Connor Greenleaf and Joe Leavitt, who will meet in a 36-hole championship round today at 8 a.m. at Mount Washington Resort Golf Club.
The final eight featured a couple of high seeds, but the favorites had their way in the quarterfinals, leading to the top three seeds, including No. 3 seed Nick Pandelena, all making the Final Four along with No. 12 seed Jamie Ferullo.
Top-seeded Greenleaf, of Windham and Windham Country Club, came back from three down after three holes to defeat Ferullo, of Rochester and Rochester Country Club, 4 and 3, in the first semifinal match on Friday. Second-seeded Leavitt, of Atkinson, defeated his best friend and fellow Atkinson Resort & Country Club member Pandelena, 3 and 1, to earn his third trip to the final in four years.
Leavitt, a rising senior at the University of Rhode Island, won it all in 2012 and 2014 and is looking for a third title in four years to cap his amateur career.
“I’m toast right now,” said Leavitt, who had to go 20 holes to beat No. 7 seed Chelso Barrett of Keene and Bretwood Golf Club in the quarterfinals. “It was tough. I mean, playing two of your best buddies in one day is tough and they’re two of the best players in New England. So for me to come out on top in both, it feels really good.”
The defending champ clinched his semifinal victory over Pandelena with a birdie putt on No. 17. His tee shot on the 407-yard par-4 went far right onto another hole’s fairway. But Leavitt battled back with a second shot that landed on the green, followed by the clutch putt, which came after Pandelena had finished with a par.
Leavitt began his takeover on No. 8 and No. 9 with back-to-back wins that put him up two. On No. 8, both he and Pandelena got on the green in two and Leavitt made his first putt for birdie. On the following hole it was another birdie putt, this time from long range, that kept the momentum going.
“Eight and 9 was big,” Leavitt said. “We were back and forth earlier. I was one down, all square, one down. And I had a good (drive) on eight and then nine I made a really nice putt. Kind of dove right into the hole. You always want to be up after nine, get a little momentum for the back nine.”
On the par-5 10th, Leavitt had a birdie putt that lipped out. It would have given him a three-up lead, but instead Pandelena was able to cut it to one with a victory on No. 12. This time is was the No. 3 seed from Boston College making a birdie putt, while Leavitt settled for par.
“The putt on 10, I had the same putt earlier against Chelso,” Leavitt said. “And it horseshoed on the right side. And this time I was thinking, ‘just hit it dead center and let it fall in.’ And it obviously hit the left lip and missed. But yeah, then Nick made a great birdie on 12. And he made a good run.”
Leavitt maintained at least a one-up lead throughout the back nine before finally finishing off Pandelena, who made it to his first final four this year after falling in the quarterfinals twice.
“I just didn’t hit enough good shots,” Pandelena said. “I played solid, just not great. I knew I needed to play well to beat (Joe). And I just didn’t get it done.
“I wanted to win this week, but final four certainly isn’t bad, especially with the caliber of players that were in the field this year.”
“It’s always tough playing Nick,” Leavitt said. “He’s literally my best friend. He’s like a brother to me. It’s a tough draw. We always wanted to play each other in the finals. But unfortunately that probably won’t happen because this is our last year. He’s as good as it gets for an amateur player and I was fortunate to win.”
Greenleaf began mounting his comeback against Ferullo with a birdie on No. 4. He drove onto the green, while Ferullo used an iron off the tee and took two shots to get there. Greenleaf also won on No. 6 and No. 7 to tie the score. He birdied the par-5 sixth and picked up a par on the par-4 seven after again opening with a long wood shot.