Rain, Devito wash away McLaughlin’s chance of reaching State Am quarterfinals

  • Concord Country Club’s Fletcher Sokul tees off on the eighth hole Thursday during the Round of 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord Country Club’s Fletcher Sokul chips onto the eighth green Thursday during the Round of 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord Country Club’s Fletcher Sokul tees off on the 11th hole Thursday during the Round of 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord Country Club’s Fletcher Sokul tees off on the 13th hole Thursday during the Round of 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord Country Club’s Will McLaughlin hits an approach shot on the 12th hole Thursday during the Round of 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord Country Club’s Will McLaughlin hits an approach shot on the 12th hole Thursday during the Round of 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord Country Club’s Will McLaughlin (left) shakes hands with Sam Natti after earning a victory Thursday during the Round of 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord High graduate Kurt Eddins of Cochecho Country Club hits his tee shot on the 12th hole Thursday during the Round of the 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord High graduate Kurt Eddins of Cochecho Country Club hits his tee shot on the 13th hole Thursday during the Round of the 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord High graduate Kurt Eddins of Cochecho Country Club hits his tee shot on the 13th hole Thursday during the Round of the 32 in the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

Monitor staff
Published: 7/11/2019 10:40:41 PM
Modified: 7/11/2019 10:40:31 PM

GREENLAND – Will McLaughlin was 1-down to John Devito and had just struck a well-placed iron shot a few feet short of the pin on the seventh hole.

And then the horn sounded at Portsmouth Country Club for dangerous weather with heavy rain not far behind.

Nearly two hours later with the rain still coming down, Concord Country Club’s McLaughlin and Passaconaway Country Club’s Devito resumed their Round of 16 match at the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship. But the two returned to an entirely different course – one that went from firm and fast all week to wet and slow – and McLaughlin had a hard time solving it.

“I was just trying to keep it in play, get it down towards the green and get it up and down,” said McLaughlin, who eventually fell to Devito, 4-and-2. “The greens were way softer. The whole course changed in that rain. So that was my plan. His plan was apparently to just keep striping shots.”

After remaining 1-up through eight holes, Devito, unbothered by the drops of rain splashing off his cap, started to pull away. He beat McLaughlin on the ninth hole before stringing together the winning formula with birdies on Nos. 11, 15 and 16 to put the match out of reach.

“It’s not like John was dry and I’m soaked,” McLaughlin joked. “He just played way better than I did in that three-, four-hole stretch. I was getting up and down on a couple of them, but ultimately that’s where he took the match. The birdie, birdie on 15 and 16 really shuts the door on you.”

McLaughlin was the lone local to make it out of the Round of 32, which had its own one-hour delay in the early morning as fog blanketed the course in Greenland.

McLaughlin beat Sam Natti (Maplewood GC), 7-and-6, to start his day. Both Kurt Eddins (Cochecho CC) and Fletcher Sokul (Concord CC) – two players with experience making deep runs at the State Am – were eliminated after falling short of Thursday’s second round.

Nashua CC’s Tommy Ethier edged Sokul, 3-and-2, in a well-played match by both.

The loss denied Sokul the chance at potentially reaching the quarterfinals for a second straight year, while Ethier lost his bid for a return to the semifinals after Matthew Gover (Atkinson CC) beat him with a birdie on the first extra hole in the Round of 16.

Eddins, a Concord High graduate, lost to Michael Mahan (Cochecho CC), 5-and-3 – the same player Eddins defeated at Bretwood Golf Course when he made his run to the quarterfinals in 2017.

“After I made it to the top eight at Bretwood, that built up a lot of confidence for me coming into this tournament that I can make it deep,” Eddins said. “Even today, if I had played better I was capable of winning the match for sure.”

Eddins, though, admittedly “just didn’t have it today,” falling behind by two after errant tee shots with the driver left him with bogies on the first three holes.

“I never really caught my groove,” Eddins said. “Especially against Mike, a guy like that, you have to play well so that’s just what it is.”

Even without his best stuff, Eddins felt like he was still in contention. He weathered the storm by the seventh hole and had a chance to make the match all square heading into the back half of the course before three-putting on the 403-yard, par-4 ninth hole.

“On the ninth green, I’m about 30-40 feet and (Mahan) is in the rough at the back, which is a very difficult spot. So I’m thinking there’s a pretty good chance that we could get to the back nine square. New ballgame,” Eddins said. “But it went the other way. He won the hole and I was two down going into 10 and it went downhill from there.”

After little in terms of surprises on Wednesday, Day 4 of the tournament boasted a few more upsets and featured four extra-hole matches in the Round of 32 alone to set up a wide-open field for the crown.

Mike Flynn (Cochecho CC) ousted top-seeded Ryan Brown (Manchester CC) in 21 holes, Jake Hollander edged No. 2 Brandon Gillis, 1-up, while Andrew Purse (Bald Peak CC) sent No. 4 Ryan Quinn (Breakfast Hill CC) home with a 2-and-1 victory and earned a quarterfinal berth with a 1-up win over Cameron Salo.

Before Gover topped Ethier, he put an end to Breakfast Hill member and 14-year-old Brian Adams’s stellar run with a 19-hole win in the Round of 32. Portsmouth CC’s own Eric Evans advanced through Thursday’s first round of match play by beating Tillman Evers (Green Meadow Inner Club) in 20 holes before securing his spot in the quarterfinals with a 6-and-5 win over Flynn.

In an all-Portsmouth matchup, Craig Steckowych, an early favorite to win his third State Am championship thanks to the home-course advantage, lost to Nick Kalil, 3-and-2. Kalil eventually went on to beat Brian Nowak (Amherst CC) by the same score in the Round of 16.

Friday is scheduled to bring two more rounds of match play as the remaining eight golfers will whittle down to a final pairing to set up Saturday’s 36-hole final.

“I kind of have a lifelong goal at this point to make it to Friday,” McLaughin said. “I thought I had a good opportunity today, he just played better and that’s what happens in match play. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t play defense.”

Quarterfinals

Eric Evans (Portsmouth CC) vs. Mathew Gover (Atkinson CC), 7:30 a.m.

Andrew Purse (Bald Peak CC) vs. John Devito (Passaconaway CC), 7:38 a.m.

Jake Hollander (Shattuck GC) vs. Nick Kalil (Portsmouth CC), 7:46 a.m.

Sam Barton (Kingswood GC) vs. Jamie Ferullo (Rochester CC), 7:54 a.m.

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)



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