Preview: 120th State Amateur Championship tees off this week


Monitor staff

Published: 07-08-2023 11:50 PM

Amateur golf legends have graced its greens.

Francis Ouimet, U.S. Open champion of 1913, and Jesse Guilford, U.S. Amateur champion of 1921, played at Manchester Country Club’s ceremonial opening competition in 1923. Now, 100 years later, Manchester C.C. in Bedford will be celebrating its centennial by hosting the 120th New Hampshire Amateur Championship.

The N.H. Amateur Championship, commonly referred to as the state am, will be played this week, starting with the first round of stroke play on Monday and concluding with the 36-hole championship match on Saturday.

Designed by Donald Ross, the 116-acre course has maintained its original integrity, with a few tweaks to some holes in recent years. The Manchester Country Club website states that “the golf course presents a true test of a player’s short game and rewards accurate approach shots.”

Belmont’s Jim Cilley — last year’s Amateur Championship runner-up — agrees.

“I haven’t played it in a couple years, but from what I’ve heard, the changes that they’ve made to a few holes are for the better. It’s really taken a step to the upper echelon of golf courses in New Hampshire,” said Cilley, 42. “There’s a premium this year on hitting fairways. From what I’ve heard, the rough is pretty tough down there. … You have to be pretty precise. It tests every aspect of your game. It’s a fairly flat golf course, but it has its challenges, with accuracy and distance control into the greens.”

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Manchester CC last hosted the state am in 2005, with Craig Cyr winning the crown.

As a private course, it’s difficult for non-members to access, so there’s an aura and mystique to competing at Manchester CC. According to a New Hampshire Golf Association press release, there were almost 500 entries for the tournament. Just over 150 will contest 36 holes of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday to whittle the field down to 64 golfers for match play.

Should any playoff holes need to be contested, that would happen on Wednesday morning to finalize the round of 64 matches that will be held that day. The rounds of 32 and 16 will be held on Thursday, while the quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Friday.

Cilley, who plays out of Laconia Country Club, is one of 11 former champions who will be teeing off on Monday. Cilley won the 2011 state am, while last year’s champion, 24-year-old Brandon Gillis of Nashua, is back to defend his title after reaching the championship round in each of the last two years.

Other local past champions competing include former pro Mark Stevens, 36, a Hopkinton resident who competes out of Beaver Meadow and Concord’s Bob Mielcarz, 73, a nine-time champion who plays out of Concord Country Club.

While Mielcarz represents the oldest player in the field of 156, there are several teenagers slated to compete, the youngest being just 14. NHIAA Division II individual champion Hunter Duncan, a Dunbarton resident, led Bow High to a title this past fall, while Boscawen’s Andrew Surprenant tied for fourth in D-II representing Merrimack Valley. Both Duncan and Suprenant play out of the state chapter of the national Youth on Course program, while Concord High’s top player from this past season, Gavin Richardson, is competing for Beaver Meadow.

All area golfers who reside in area towns or play out of area golf courses are listed below. The first golfers tee off their opening round at 7:30 a.m. on Monday.

Concord CC: Ryan Blossom, Matthew Burroughs, Derek Jensen, Will McLaughlin, Bob Mielcarz, David Perry, Don Steenbeke, Ryan Sylvester.

Canterbury Woods: Travis Banga, Joseph Bowker, Jake Castricone, Matt Moore, Joshua Pabst, Scott Underhill.

Abenaqui CC: Fletcher Sokul.

Beaver Meadow: Gavin Richardson, Eric Saucier, Mark Stevens.

Cochecho CC: Kurt Eddins.

Country Club of New Hampshire: Timothy Braley.

Derryfield CC: David Stickney.

Laconia CC: Jim Cilley, AJ Correia, Justin Dockham, Ethan Emerson, Bill Everett, Patrick Hesseltine, Bill Raney, Evan Rollins, David Sherborne.

Lake Sunapee: Rob Henley, Nick MacDonald, Bo Underhill.

Manchester CC: Jeremy Duhamel.

Pembroke Pines: Shane St. Onge.

Youth on Course: Hunter Duncan, Andrew Surprenant.