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Martel aims for NH Golf Association State Amateur repeat

MIKE MARTEL of New Ipswich is aiming to do something no golfer has been able to do in almost two decades: Win back-to-back New Hampshire Golf Association State Amateur titles.

Martel, 21, begins defense of his 2013 championship when the 111th State Amateur tees off at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown a week from Monday on July 14.

"It's obviously going to be tough," Martel said. "Everybody's going to be gunning for me. I feel like I have a target on my back. But I feel good about where my game is right now. It's been pretty solid the last few weeks. I actually started the season off rough, but I got out of it. I made a few changes with my coach, nothing major."

Bob Mielcarz was the last golfer to successfully defend a State Am title when he won his seventh championship in 1995 and followed up with his eighth of an eventual nine in 1996.

What's more, each champion in more than a decade has been a first-time winner.

Peter Harrity took the honors in 2002 and since then the winner each year has been a first-timer, which speaks not only to the level of competition, but the format of the tournament.

"It is a tough tournament," said John Jelley, tournament director for the NHGA. "Part of that is the nature of match play. It's not like four rounds of stroke play. In match play, funny things happen. State Am week is a long week and it's probably more of a young men's event with all the rounds of match play. It's hard to defend."

Joe Leavitt won in 2012 and was trying to defend last year at the Golf Club of New England in Stratham.

Martel took Leavitt out in the semifinals and then came from behind to beat Chris Rivard of Candia Woods Golf Links, 2 and 1, on the 35th hole on championship Saturday.

Martel was four holes down at the lunch break after 18 holes. He stormed back in the afternoon.

"I came out and won a couple of holes and it changes the whole thing when you go from four holes down to two," he said. "It's a whole new match."

After 36 holes of stroke play over Monday and Tuesday, the tournament field is cut to the top 64 for match play that begins on Wednesday.

As with many golf courses, Stonebridge has had to deal with the effects of a winter that was long and tough and did a number on greens, especially, around the state.

"They've done a lot of things to promote smoothness on the greens," Jelley said. "We don't expect them to be perfect, but hopefully they will be good enough and we'll be fine with them. Every place really comes back at a different pace and this year probably half the courses had damage, maybe more, and some came back quicker than others. I think the players will understand. Probably a few don't understand why we don't have perfect conditions every time. But we live in New Hampshire and it's tough up here some times."

Had to feel good last week for Dana Harrity of North Hampton, who won her first New England Women's Golf Association amateur championship at Keene Country Club.

Harrity, 55, has won 15 New Hampshire Women's Golf Association titles, the most recent in Hanover in 2002, but had always come up short in the New England Am.

Not this time.

She rallied on Wednesday on the last nine holes of the 54-hole tournament to hold off two of New England's best players, Tara Connelly and Pam Kuong of Massachusetts. Harrity posted an even-par 71-73-72-216. Connelly was a stroke back and Kuong was three behind Harrity.

"I've been second a number of times and third a number of times, but could never quite finish it," said an elated Harrity.

One New England Am, in particular, haunted her.

Dedham, Mass., 1989.

"I led by a shot going up 18 and hit into a bunker and made bogey and lost the tournament, Harrity said. "It was an awful, awful feeling and I had it for years. I blew my only chance to win the New England Am. ... I never really got over it for a long time. This helped a lot."

Colette Schmidt of Eastman Golf Links in Grantham tied for sixth in the New England Am with a 75-77-78-230.

Harrity will shoot for NHGA title No. 16 at Windham Country Club in the women's amateur championship on Aug. 4-6.

A final note from the NHGA Junior Golf tournament contested at Campbell's Scottish Highlands in Salem a couple of weeks ago.

Kudos to Windham's James McKee and Nashua's Brandon Gillis, a couple of talented 15-year-olds who went shot-for-shot until McKee won the championship flight title on the third playoff hole of the 18-hole event.

And a shout-out, too, to Alex von Svoboda, 17, of Newbury. He was all even on the 18th green in his semifinal match with Gillis when he called a one-stroke penalty on himself because his ball moved - most likely because of gusting wind - after he addressed it.

The penalty led to Gillis winning the match on that hole.

"I'm always impressed when people do that and call a penalty on themselves," Jelley said. "That's what the game should be about, but it isn't always. He's probably been brought up right. I'm sure it wouldn't cross his mind to not say something."

Said von Svoboda: "I had to call myself on it. I knew right away to do it. It's the right thing."


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