NH Golf: Craig Steckowych

Two-time State Amateur champion Craig Stecknowych says the fields are much deeper now than they were 20 years ago.

Brett Wilson didn’t need long to respond when he was asked who the favorite is in next week’s New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club.

“Don’t you have to go with Paradis?” said Wilson, who will represent The Golf Club of New England in this year’s State Am. “He’s been consistently the best player over the past three years.”

Paradis is Hooksett resident Matt Paradis, a Concord Country Club member who won last year’s State Am with a 6-and-5 victory over Carter Country Club’s Patrick Pelletier. Paradis was the State Am runner-up in 2016 and 2017. He’ll be trying to become the first golfer to win the State Am in back-to-back years since Concord Country Club’s Bob Mielarz prevailed at Abenaqui Country Club in 1995 and John H. Cain in 1996.

This year’s State Am will begin next Monday and wrap up with the 36-hole final on Saturday.

“He’s certainly one, two or three (among the favorites),” Portsmouth Country Club’s Craig Steckowych added when asked about Paradis. “It’s hard to say because there’s so many young guys out there I know nothing about. There’s a wider array of players who could win it now than there was 20 years ago. Twenty years ago there was probably a pool of 15 or 20 guys who could win it — and that’s probably being generous.”

The Portsmouth course measures 7,153 yards from the blue tees, but Wilson and Steckowych both said length off the tee won’t be as much of an advantage in the State Am as many think it is.

“Length is not a factor for the players who are going to be in contention,” Wilson said.

Steckowych, who won the State Am in 1990 (Charmingfare) and 1998 (Derryfield), said this week’s weather will have a lot to do with how hard the course will be.

“It’ll be weather contingent,” he said. “If we don’t continue to get rain and the course has a chance to dry out it’s going to be firm and fast — and a lot of golfers are not going to like the firm. It’s not going to be target golf. Golfers will have to plan for some run off. If it’s wet it’ll play longer, but easier.”

Steckowych also said golfers will face a key stretch of holes on Portsmouth’s back nine, and how well those holes are played could determine this year’s champion.

“All the holes at Portsmouth are very good, with one exception,” he said. “The eighth hole (an uphill par 3) is pot luck.

“The swing holes are going to be 10 (435-yard par 4), 11 (548-yard par 5) and 12 (472-yard par 4). The wind is in your face and if it’s blowing reasonably hard, bogeys are going to be made there.”

Jay Pollini, the head professional at Ridgewood Country Club in Moultonborough, navigated the par-72 layout at Keene Country Club with a 6-under-par 66 Monday to win the weekly New Hampshire PGA pro-am. Pollini’s round included seven birdies — five in a row at one point — for a 30 on the back nine. Matt Arvanitis, the Southern New Hampshire University golf coach, shot a 70 and was the only other professional who broke par.

Exeter’s William Huang finished in a tie for sixth place at the New England Junior PGA Championship held Tuesday and Wednesday at Shaker Hills Country Club in Harvard, Mass. Huang shot a 2-over-par 74 Wednesday to finish the two-day tournament at 150 and in a six-way tie. Daniel Brooks of Dudley, Mass., won the tournament with an even-par 144.

Walpole’s David Howell shot an 81 (gross) to finish second, one stroke behind Rick Marasa of Springfield, Vt., in the Valley Seniors Golf Tournament played Wednesday at Hooper Golf Course in Walpole.

Walpole’s Dave Johnson (83), Keene’s Harold Parott (85), Antrim’s Bob Southall (86), Harrisville’s David Lord (88), Keene’s George Short (89), Marlborough’s Richard Hill (Marlborough) and Henniker’s Rod Pimentel (92) were the other New Hampshire golfers who finished in the top 10.

Age group winners:

Ages 57-74 gross: Marasa (80)

Ages 57-74 net: Howell (71)

Ages 75-87 gross: Johnson (83)

Ages 75-87 net: Keene’s Gil Fuld (71)

Closest to the pin: Fuld.

NH Golf appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Contact Roger Brown at rbrown@unionleader.com.

Golf Calendar

July 1: Stroke Play Series (Exeter CC)

July 8-13: New Hampshire Amateur (Portsmouth CC)

July 23-25: New England Amateur (Quechee Club)

July 24: Parent-Child Championship (Stonebridge CC)

July 29-31: Junior Championship (Beaver Meadow GC)

Aug. 6-8: Stroke Play Championship (Green Meadow GC)

Aug. 11-13: New England Junior Amateur (Mill River CC)

Aug. 21-22: Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship (Baker Hill GC)

Aug. 27: Stroke Play Series (Intervale CC)

Sept. 17-18: New England Senior Amateur (Biddeford-Saco CC)