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Belmont’s Cilley makes deep run, loses to defending champion in state am semifinals

  • Belmont’s Jim Cilley chips a shot out of a sand trap during Friday’s state am match at North Conway Country Club. Cilley advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling to defending champion James Pleat. Courtesy of Kate Billings / N.H. Golf Association

  • Belmont’s Jim Cilley watches a shot during Friday’s state am match at North Conway Country Club. Cilley advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling to defending champion James Pleat. Courtesy of Kate Billings / N.H. Golf Association

Monitor staff
Published: 7/16/2021 4:13:39 PM

In a tournament where most former champions went out early, Belmont’s Jim Cilley made it all the way to the semifinals and it took the defending champion to take him down.

No. 10 Cilley (Laconia Country Club) won his quarterfinal match on Friday morning against No. 31 Cameron Sheedy of Windham CC (2 and 1), but fell just shy of a spot in the 118th State Amateur Championship final with a loss to No. 11 James Pleat (Nashua CC), 3 and 1, on Friday afternoon at North Conway CC.

Cilley took an early lead, carding a birdie on the second hole to go 1 up, but Pleat tied it on the fourth hole and went ahead with a birdie on the fifth.

“(North Conway CC) isn’t the longest course we’ve played in this event,” said Cilley. “It’s a course that’s manageable for my length from the tee. Based on the length and how flat most of the greens are, it’s something that a guy who hits good wedge shots and puts well can do well here. I didn’t expect that to be the strength of my game, but it was this week.”

A birdie on the 10th hole put Pleat 2 up and Cilley bogeyed the 14th hole to give Pleat a three-hole lead. Cilley birdied on the 15th hole to cut the deficit to two, but Pleat won the 17th hole to earn his spot in back-to-back state am championship matches.

“The wind was tricky this afternoon, but it wasn’t an issue for James because he hits so far,” said Cilley. “He made the putts he had to make, and I didn’t. That made the difference today.”

“I wasn’t really making many mistakes off the tee,” Pleat told the N.H. Golf Association in a press release. “My wedge game was a little bit better. Basically, everything was working. It was nice, I just played solid.”

Cilley was one of the more consistent golfers of this year’s state am, tying for seventh with five other competitors on the first day of stroke play, carding a 3-under 68, and making par on the second day to earn the No. 10 seed.

In match play, he topped No. 55 Tim Yarosevich (Bretwood) in the round of 64, 8 and 7, No. 42 Ryan Friel (The Overlook), 3 and 2 in the round of 32 and No. 7 Tommy Ethier (Nashua CC), 1 up, heading in Friday’s matches.

“It was fun just being able to play and be with my buddies,” Cilley said. “I was talking down the fairway smiling and was playing good golf because of it. You worry about (all these details) ahead of it, but you find your game once you’re here.”

The only other golfer from a local course who had advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals was No. 45 Scott Underhill (Canterbury Woods), who narrowly fell in the quarterfinals to Gillis, 1 up. Underhill – a Manchester resident, former SNHU golfer and Campbell High golf coach had a good showing this past week, upsetting No. 20 Jamie Ferullo (round of 64) and No. 29 Stephen Ramos (round of 16), and topping No. 52 Kyle Wallace in the round of 32.

Wallace was coming off an upset of his own – a victory over 9-time state am champ Bob Mielcarz of Concord CC.

Pleat will take on fellow Nashua resident No. 5 Brandon Gillis (Sky Meadow), who defeated No. 32 Brett Wilson (Golf Club of New England), 1 up, in the other semifinal.

Pleat won his first state am title on his home course in Nashua last year.

Both finalists knocked off local golfers en route to Saturday’s final.

Gillis defeated the No. 60 seed 15 year old Dunbarton resident and Bow High’s top golfer Hunter Duncan (Concord CC), 3 and 1.

Pleat knocked off Laconia CC’s No. 54 Stephen Miele (2 and 1) in the round of 64.

Saturday’s championship match will consist of 36 holes and tees off at a.m.

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