Joe Duball's NH Golf: Ex-NHWGA champ returnsBy JOE DUBALL
August 11. 2018 11:32PM
Everyone likes a good comeback story. However, Tracy Martin's return to the New Hampshire Women's Golf Association ranks at this week's NHWGA Amateur Championship poses a dilemma to her fellow competitors.
There will undoubtedly be happiness among the 80-player field as Martin, the 2013 NHWGA champion, rejoins the tournament and adds more competition. The downside for players with Martin's return lies with her pedigree. The 28-year-old Nashua Country Club member carries a handicap just below plus-two, which alone has many of her peers tabbing her as the tournament favorite despite her five-year absence.
"I definitely feel honored and it's humbling to know they think that highly of me," Martin said. "I appreciate that they consider me to be player of such a high caliber, but I'm just happy to be out there. I can only hope that I can hit on some of the expectations people are setting for me."
Martin's appointment as a favorite also comes based off of what she did in her last turn at the NHWGA championship, in 2013. She entered the final day of that tournament in a three-way tie for the lead before running away with a six-stroke victory.
The title was a send-off of sorts as Martin moved to Richmond, Va., where she went to school and played golf at the University of Richmond, and for her first job out of college. Martin said she ended up back in New England a year later, but ultimately put competitive golf on the back burner.
"For those first few years I was really just trying to figure out life," Martin said. "You know, like a new job, living on my own and managing finances. That all meant just kind of stepping back from golf."
Martin hopped back into the tournament play last year in the Massachusetts Women's Amateur Championship, which she had finished runner-up in twice previously. The Bishop Guertin High School of Nashua alum has always lived in Massachusetts, residing in Wakefield, Mass., these days. She made it to the semifinals of match play after firing a 76 in the tournament's stroke play qualifying, where she tied for seventh.
There were number of factors that played into Martin's decision to take a stab at another NHWGA title.
"I saw the championship was at Portsmouth CC this year and it's a course I had never played until this year, but always heard good things," said Martin, who consulted fellow Nashua CC member and longtime friend James Pleat about Portsmouth CC. "So I thought about it that way and I had the opportunity to take the time off from work, which is really what it comes down to nowadays."
Two-time defending NHWGA champion Chelsea Sedlar, Derryfield CC's Tara Watt and Abenaqui CC's Dana Harrity are players Martin said she expects to feel the heat from, but also has to worry about combatting herself.
"I used to be able to play six days during the week and now I'm lucky to even get out twice in a weekend," Martin said. "Expectations are still there, but realistically I don't get to put in the time that I'd like anymore. Playing as much as I have in the past and on the level that I have, you don't lose the competitiveness.
"It's all really changed my perception of the game. Every weekend I'm out there now, I'm just showing up with the entire bag. The most important thing is getting the ball in the hole, no matter if it's ugly or the best shot of your career."
Putting and chipping are areas where Martin expects to cut strokes as they've been integral parts to her past success. The rest of her fortunes will be determined by how she manages Portsmouth CC, which she's now played twice leading up to the tournament. While the course isn't intimidating to Martin, she's not sure whether Portsmouth matches her game or if she will have to tailor to the demands of the course.
"It's definitely a different course from what I'm used to playing at Nashua," Martin said. "Portsmouth is forgiving, but you have to hit your shots. . There are a couple really difficult holes out there. It's not going to be a case where you can hit it anywhere and then get up and down. A lot is going to depend on positioning and the weather, which I've heard switches a lot with what the wind can do out there."
Martin will lead the charge out of the gate on Monday, joining Sedlar and Watt in the opening tee time at 7:30 a.m.
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Shivani Vora is the wild card at Portsmouth CC this week. The 13-year-old probably shouldn't be on anyone's radar due to her age, but she's playing well beyond it.
Shooting under par any day is a positive, but Vora's 1-under showing in Thursday's NHWGA Junior Championship triumph proved she's capable of doing it with something at stake besides a solid score. Whether or not the momentum for Vora can spill over into the State Am will come down to composure, which she appeared to have in check when discussing the a potential run this week after winning the Junior Championship.
"It's my home course so I know my way around there," said Vora, a member at Portsmouth CC. "It's good to have that going for me with this being the first time ever playing in the tournament."
Vora will tee off with Dana Harrity and Mindy Reid at 7:40 a.m. on Monday.
Also representing the junior ranks is Cochecho CC of Dover's Carys Fennessy, who is the youngest competitor at 11 years old. She'll begin her State Am run at 8:40 a.m. Monday alongside Dale Nims and Carol LaBranche.
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Another New Hampshire golf event to keep an eye on Monday is all the way out in Pebble Beach, Calif. That's where Hooksett's Matt Paradis will be beginning a hopefully lengthy run at the U.S. Amateur Championships.
The 2018 State Am winner will get at least two rounds, beginning with a 3:45 p.m. Eastern time tee time on Monday and then back at it again on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The tournament field consists of 312 players that will play 36 holes between Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course during two rounds of stroke play qualifying.
The top 64 players from those qualifying rounds will advance to match play, which features one day of 18 holes and two 36-hole days. Like the New Hampshire Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur title will be decided with two players squaring off in a 36-hole finale.
The marathon format is nothing new for Paradis considering his State Am experience in recent summers. The Southern New Hampshire University golfer has also played 22 rounds of golf in the last month.
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SNHU men's and women's golf coach Matt Arvanitis captured the New Hampshire PGA Championship on Tuesday, shooting a 4-under 138 over two days at North Conway Country Club.
Arvanitis, who also won the event back in 2011, went 3-under in Monday's opening round and followed with a 1-under effort on Tuesday to win by two strokes. The triumph included nine birdies, which was the most by any player. Arvanitis finished runner-up at the event last year prior to being named New Hampshire PGA Player of the Year for a fifth time.
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The NHWGA's final Tuesday tournaments before the State Am took place this past week with Division A playing at Hanover CC while Division B trekking over to Wentworth By the Sea CC in Rye.
Paige Macleay gave herself a boost leading into this week with a Division A win, shooting 4-over to down Corey Richardson and Laurie Ethier by three strokes. The B Division was topped by Sheila Burke's 22-over, which was four strokes better than a trio of second-place finishers.
Here are full results from both tournaments:
At Hanover CC
Gross results: 1. Paige Macleay, 4-over; 2nd gross tie: t-2. Corey Richardson, 7-over; t-2. Laurie Ethier, 7-over; 4. Amy Peters, 8-over; t-5. Caroline Fang, 9-over; t-5. Dale Nims, 9-over; 7. Betsy Knights, 10-over.
Net results: 1. Susan Belanger, 7-under; 2. Karen Massahos, 4-under; t-3. Cindy Perkins, 3-under; t-3. Mary Kruzel, 3-under; t-5. Candi Cosgrove, 2-under; t-5. Christiane Raabe, 2-under; t-7. Carmen Lesieur, 1-under; t-7. Diana Spring, 1-under; t-7. Joanne Botos, 1-under.
At Wentworth By the Sea CC, Rye
Gross results: 1. Sheila Burke, 22-over; t-2. Carol Wallace, 26-over; t-2; Marny Peabody, 26-over; t-2. Therese Theriault, 26-over; 5. Karen Brickner, 27-over; 6. June Bridgewater, 28-over; t-7. Denise LoConte, 29-over; t-7. Charlene Buffum, 29-over; t-9. Kathy Low, 30-over; t-9. Susan Lougee, 30-over
Net results: 1. Pam Lapointe, 5-under; 2. Bonnie Wabble, 3-under; 3. Karin Mahoney, 1-under; 4. Jo-Ann Fogg, even; t-5. Sherry Osgood, 1-over; t-5. Denise Jaronski, 1-over; t-5. Marie Ayles, 1-over; 8. Daryl Mazzaglia, 2-over; t-9. Jackie Cantwell, 3-over; t-9. Janet Bickford, 3-over; 11. Pam Burns, 4-over.
NH Golf appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News during the summer. To reach Joe Duball, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.