STRATHAM — Mike Martel said his game plan entering Friday’s semifinal round of the New Hampshire Golf Association’s State Amateur Championship was to be aggressive, and when he built a 3-up lead against defending champion Joe Leavitt through five holes that plan didn’t change.
That strategy produced a 6-and-5 victory that advanced Martel to Saturday’s 8 a.m. championship match at the Golf Club of New England. Martel will face Hudson resident Chris Rivard in a match that’s scheduled for 36 holes.
Martel, a 20-year-old New Ipswich resident who plays out of Crotched Mountain Golf Club in Francestown, made six birdies and one bogey in his 13 holes against Leavitt, who’s a member at Atkinson Golf Club & Resort.
“I knew I’d have to make a lot of birdies to win that match, and I did,” Martel said. “I played more aggressive toward pins, made some great putts. I knew when I got up on him I had to stay aggressive. I couldn’t let him back into it at all.
“I played really well. I was pretty much in every fairway and on every green. He’s a good player and I knew I’d have to play well to beat him.”
Rivard, who plays out of Candia Woods, moved on by beating Portsmouth Country Club’s Craig Steckowych 2 and 1 in the semifinals. Steckowych won this event in 1990 and 1998.
“He’s an awesome competitor,” Rivard said. “I have a ton of respect for him. The outcome could have easily been different because he lipped out at least four putts today.”
Rivard, 34, is a Manchester Memorial graduate who played college golf at Southern New Hampshire University. He played professional golf for six years, but regained his amateur status last year. He defeated Manchester Country Club’s Ryan Toombs 3 and 2 in Friday morning’s quarterfinals.
Steckowych lost the first hole against Rivard and was never able to square the match. Rivard had a 3-up lead after eight holes.
Rivard said he loves playing at The Golf Club of New England. “It fits my game because I hit it far — and I’ve been hitting it straight,” he said. “The advantage of length in match play is you’re always hitting it second into the green. You get a chance to see what your opponent does and you can react off of what they’re doing.”
Martel, who hadn’t won a match in his three previous State Am appearances, graduated from Mascenic Regional of New Ipswich in 2011. He helped Mascenic win three Division III championships during his four years in high school.
“I lived in Florida during the winter, so I was able to practice at least a little bit rather than not playing at all,” Martel said.
It was an impressive day for Martel, who beat Brett Wilson 2 and 1 on Wilson’s home course Friday morning. Wilson, a Dover resident, won this year’s Seacoast Amateur. He was 3-up on Martel after three holes.
Damon Salo, one of Martel’s teammates at Mascenic, caddied for Martel on Friday afternoon, and will caddie for him today as well. Martel said he’s not surprised he’s advanced this far in the tournament.
“Honestly, no I’m not,” he said. “I knew coming in I’m plenty good enough to win this event.”
This is the second time Rivard has advanced to the State Am finals. He lost to Concord Country Club’s Bob Mielcarz in the 2000 championship at Bretwood Golf Course in Keene.
“Saturday’s another day,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
State Am Results
Chris Rivard (Candia Woods) def. Ryan Tombs (Manchester CC) 3 and 2; Craig Steckoych (Portsmouth CC) def. Chase Dembisky (Souhegan Woods) 1-up; Mike Martel (Crotched Mountain) def. Brett Wilson (Golf Club of New England) 2 and 1; Joe Leavitt (Atkinson CC) def. Mike Mahan (The Oaks) 5 and 4.
Martel def. Leavitt 6 and 5; Rivard def. Steckowych 2 and 1.