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Golf Club of New England a test for state’s amateur golfers

Beau Hossler of Mission Viejo, Calif., hits out of the rough on the tenth hole during the first round of stroke play for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the Golf Club of New England, Monday, July 16, 2012 in Stratham, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Beau Hossler of Mission Viejo, Calif., hits out of the rough on the tenth hole during the first round of stroke play for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the Golf Club of New England, Monday, July 16, 2012 in Stratham, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

The New Hampshire State Amateur Golf Championship will be making a new stop when it tees off for the 110th time tomorrow – The Golf Club of New England in Stratham. And the picturesque private club is grateful for the opportunity.

“We’re a championship golf course and we’re excited to host the event,” said GCNE head pro Greg Sandell. “We had the U.S. Junior Amateur here last year, so that was the biggest event we’ve ever hosted, it was the only USGA championship ever hosted in New Hampshire, and this is another major for us.”

The course was created by Palmer Course Design and opened in 2003. Loaded with marshland, water hazards, large fairway bunkers, and capable of stretching out to 7,500 yards (though it will likely be just shy of 7,000 yards for this tournament), the course will present a daunting task to the state’s top amateurs. But that kind of challenge, plus the beauty and unique style of every hole, is the kind of test serious golfers welcome.

“It’s a gorgeous course, and, ultimately, it’s by far the best course we have in the state, and it’s probably the best course in northern New England,” said Jim Cilley, the 2011 champion who plays out of Canterbury Woods Country Club.

There probably won’t be too many low scores after the first two days of medal play because the course simply won’t allow it. There may be six or seven holes that will offer real birdie opportunities, but not much more.

“We don’t have any hole where you will say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to birdie that.’ It’s just a solid test of golf from the moment you step on the first tee to the last putt you hit on the 18th green,” Sandell said. “It doesn’t let up.”

A long and accurate tee shot will likely be a requirement for staying in the hunt. Some fairways can’t be reached with a short tee shot, and some of the longer par 5s will take two, tough mid-iron shots to reach the green if you don’t hit a longer drive. And the golfers won’t be able to swing for the fences without worrying about aim. The rough is extremely thick and healthy, especially after all the rain that has fallen over the last month, and there’s the proliferation of fairway bunkers to worry about.

Even though the skies are expected to be mostly clear during the tournament, the course will probably still be wet. That means the greens will hold a bit better, but there will be less run on the fairways, putting an even greater premium on drive distance. So young golfers who can crush it off the tee, like Joe Leavitt, who won the event last year as an 18-year-old, will have an advantage. But experience will also play a role on such a challenging course.

“Some of the kids that are in college now and just kill the ball, they could very easily win it,” Cilley said. “But I also think some of us older guys will be in the mix based on the fact that we’ve been around and understand that patience will be key.”

“Staying focused for the whole round is really important here,” Sandell said. “Once you get in trouble here the trouble tends to compound on that hole. If you just get back in play and take your medicine, you can be okay, but I find that a lot of golfers here try to pull off the one-in-a-million shot to try to get on the green and they just end up in more trouble.”

Patience and focus will certainly be needed on the final four holes, which Cilley called, “one of the toughest finishes I’ve ever played; it’s almost unfair.”

The 15th is a reasonably distanced par 5, but the green has water on the left and right and tricky bunkers in the back. There’s a difficult approach angle to the green on the par-4 16th and nothing but hazard to the green’s left. The green on the par-3 17th is surrounded by water and a massive bunker. And the par-4 18th is long with water, wetlands and bunkers. Or, as Cilley put it, “diabolical.”

Past champions like Leavitt, Cilley, Craig Steckowych and Dan Arvantis will be among the names to watch, as will Brett Wilson, a GCNE member who won his third Seacoast Amateur Championship two weeks ago. One familiar name that won’t be there is Concord’s Bob Mielcarz. The nine-time champ played his last State Am last year at his home course, Concord Country Club.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

State Am tee times

Monday, at Golf Club of New England

First tee

7 a.m. – Joe Cooper, Portsmouth; Chase Dembisky, Souhegan Woods; Roman Ojala, The Shattuck

7:10 – Jonah Choe, Atkinson; James Branham, Sagamore-Hampton; Colin Barnea, Rochester

7:20 – Sean Lacey, Intervale; Ian Landry, Loudon; Peter Keilty, Portsmouth

7:30 – Ryan Kohler, Hooper; Michael Mahan, The Oaks; David Sherborne, Derryfield

7:40 – Steve Denver, Derryfield; Bob Landry, Loudon; Chris Jacques, Beaver Meadow

7:50 – Stephen Miele, Intervale; Ryan Fuller, Keene; Dylan Tooch, Rochester

8:00 – Matthew Killam, Newport; Makenzie Denver, Derryfield; James Pleat, Nashua

8:10 – Connor Greenleaf, Windham; Kurt Eddins, Exeter; Max Linemayr, Wentworth BTS

8:20 – Michael Killam, Newport; Ryan Tombs, Manchester; Jeffrey Rogers, Breakfast Hill

8:30 – Eric Whitmore, Atkinson; Dan Schultz, Concord; Steve Lane, Green Meadow

8:40 – Alec Brunelle, Atkinson; Dan Moquin, Waukewan; Scott Underhill, Manchester

8:50 – Patrick McGinley, Manchester; Tom Hixon, Wentworth BTS; Vince Kimball, Hanover

11:45 – Codi Daudelin, Cochecho; Nathan Roth, Hanover; Peter Beaulieu, Atkinson

11:55 – Alex von Svoboda, Baker Hill; Josh Lacasse, Pembroke Pines; Ryan Butler, Windham

12:05 p.m. – Jimmy Lyndes, Portsmouth; Austin Fox, Intervale; Mark Mancini, Atkinson

12:15 – Jamie Ferullo, Rochester; Matthew Paradis, Derryfield; Rich Reeves, Canterbury Woods

12:25 – Chris Pollet, Portsmouth; Rick Moreau, Sky Meadow; David Kane, Derryfield

12:35 – Damon Salo, The Shattuck; Joe Leavitt, Atkinson; Chris Houston, Laconia

12:45 – Larry Nuttall, Green Meadow; Geoff Martin, Canterbury Woods; Eric Soderman, Hoodkroft

12:55 – Kell Traffie, Crotched Mountain; Nick Adjutant, Rochester; Dan Doyle, Canterbury Woods

1:05 – Scott Rowell, Rochester; Mike Blair, Bretwood; Jamin Somero, Crotched Mountain

1:15 – Steve Schultz, Blackmount; Albie Powers III, Keene; Griffin Brown, The Overlook

1:25 – Thomas Bouchard, Nashua; Kevin Ferendo, Candia Woods; Jim Jankowski, Baker Hill

1:35 – Phil Pleat, Nashua; John Esterbrook, Crotched Mountain; Ken Nilson, Ridgewood

Tenth tee

7 a.m. – Billy Forcier, Abenaqui; Adam Godbout, Concord; Seth Cross, Canterbury Woods

7:10 – Will McLaughlin, Concord; CJ Konkowski, Rochester; Andy Hunnewell, Carter

7:20 – Curt Graham, Souhegan Woods; Eric Foster, Waukewan; Daniel Mulkern, Golf Club of NE

7:30 – Richard Gray, Crotched Mountain; Michael Vedrani, Pease; Bo Harris, Intervale

7:40 – Craig Steckowych, Portsmouth; Jim Cilley, Canterbury Woods; Daniel Arvanitis, Derryfield

7:50 – Chris Atwood, Rochester; Mark Brogan, Green Meadow; Tim Manwaring, Bretwood

8:00 – Ryan Brogan, Nashua; Tyler Silver, Hanover; Chelso Barrett, Bretwood

8:10 – Bill Cahill, Nashua; Dave Mattson, Concord; Patrick Taber, Rochester

8:20 – Michael Martel, Crotched Mountain; Jeffrey Weishaar, Atkinson; Dave Mollica, Golf Club of NE

8:30 – Jon Malloy, The Oaks; Wayne Farmer, Den Brae; Andrew Hebert, Portsmouth

8:40 – Bill Duggan, Laconia; Aaron Slyman, The Shattuck; Zach Pollard, Hanover

8:50 – David Larrivee, Manchester; Joe Toland, Hanover; Dan Kish, Rochester

11:45 – John DeVito, Indian Mound; Mike Peters, Portsmouth; Pete Desjardins, Atkinson

11:55 – Justin Jennings, Green Meadow; Colin McGee, Pease; Adham Darwish, Laconia

12:05 p.m. – Josh Chamberlain, Crotched Mountain; Brett Wilson, Golf Club of NE; Ryan Friel, The Overlook

12:15 – Hayden Maroun, Ridgewood; James McKee, Windham; Chris Kelloway, Portsmouth

12:25 – Fletcher Sokul, Concord; Ricky Bergevin, Pembroke Pines; Todd Becker, Intervale

12:35 – Chris Rivard, Manchester; Michael Schnell, Owl’s Nest; Tim Driscoll, Golf Club of NE

12:45 – Jake Nutter, Manchester; Patrick Rahn, Golf Club of NE; Dylan Evans, Stonebridge

12:55 – Charles Felch, Pease; Patrick Mahan, Intervale; Thomas Ellis III, Eastman

1:05 – Nicholas Kalil, Portsmouth; Jeff Sullivan, Sky Meadow; Nick Fairweather, Windham

1:15 – Jack Benson, Den Brae; Kurt Wuenschel, Baker Hill; Kevin Doherty, Manchester

1:25 – Charles McNeeley, CC of NH; Jeremiah O’Neill Jr., Windham; Glenn Guillemette, The Oaks

1:35 – Bill Everett, Owl’s Nest; Tony Fournier, Portsmouth; Tom Mareno, Manchester

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