NASHUA — The 117th N.H. Amateur golf championship shifts to match play Wednesday, with five area players a part of the 64-player bracket.
Cam Salo, Ryan Kohler, Jake Hollander, James Kinnunen and Bob Kearney survived Tuesday’s cut that came after two days of qualifying stroke play at Nashua Country Club. The cut was 10 over par.
Twenty-three shots ahead of those players who finished on the cut line is James Pleat, 29, a member of the host course. Pleat, 29, was the class of the field the past two days. All the Dartmouth grad did was make 14 birdies and one eagle to win medalist honors for the second time in this event on this course. Pleat shot 65-64, 13-under.
When Jim Cilley won here in 2011, Pleat was medalist then, too, but at 7-under for the two days.
Pleat’s father, Phil, 64, also made the cut easily, finishing 1-over for his two rounds. Phil Pleat is a three-time State-Am winner.
But his son, a financial adviser like his father, raised eyes these past two days, playing near-perfect golf on a friendly, familiar track. James Pleat was exempt into this year’s field having won the N.H. Mid-Am two years ago.
Salo, 28, broke from the gates quickly Tuesday, with birdies on four of his first 6 holes on his way to a front-nine 33. He shot 2-under 69.
Salo earned the No. 12 seed in the 2016 State-Am and reached the quarterfinals. Hollander lost to John DeVito in last year’s 36-hole championship match.
Hollander, just 23 and playing out of The Shattuck, had a clean, three-birdie, one-bogey round for 69. Hollander, who rode momentum all the way to championship Saturday a year ago in Portsmouth, finished stroke play at 2-over.
DeVito did make the cut, with rounds of 75-77 he made it right on the cut line.
Also finishing on the cutline was Kearney. The 64-year-old Texas native who lives in the region and members at Bretwood in Keene during the summer, shot 72 Monday and 80 Tuesday.
Kohler shared sixth place and was one of 10 players in the field to finish the two days under par. The 26-year-old shot rounds of 69-72. Four other players also finished at 1-under.
Kohler offset six bogeys Tuesday with three birdies and an eagle. He and James Pleat, playing in the same group, both eagled the par 5 uphill 11th hole. Kohler chipped in and Pleat rolled in a 15-footer.
Beginning on the 10th hole, it was their second hole of the round. Pleat made a nice par save at 18 following a wayward drive then went on a stretch of four birdies in five holes starting on the course’s front side.
With rounds of 66-68, William Huang, 18, earned the No. 2 seed at 8-under. Huang, bound for the University of Stanford, made 13 birdies over two days. Dustin Moreault, Pat Pelletier and Salo round out the top five.
Moreault of Derryfield CC in Manchester shot 67 Tuesday and is 5-under for his two days. His high-octane round featured seven birdies and an eagle.
Area players that did not advance to match play are Nick Fenuccio, Tim Yarosevich, Mike Blair, Mitchell Cormier, and Erik Carlson.
Ten players from the host course advanced. Other notables who got through include Cilley, two-time title-holder Craig Steckowych, Dan Arvanitis, Jared Lamothe, and Bob Mielcarz, who shot 78-74 to just sneak in. Mielcarz, now 70, has won this event nine times, more than any other player.
The first-round draw is layered with interesting matches, but none more intriguing, perhaps, than Huang, the young teen, against Kearney; they are separated by 46 years in age. Huang is a Division I bound standout, Kearney starred at Division I UConn and was for a while one of the top-ranked senior amateurs in the U.S.
Kohler, the No. 8 seed, draws Colin McCaigue of Amherst in the first round, while Salo meets Nick Fairweather on Windham CC, the No. 60 seed. Hollander, No. 21, gets No. 14 seed Sam Natti, and Kinnunen, No. 31, gets a date with Phil Smith, No. 34, of Green Meadow in Hudson.
James Pleat gets fellow Nashua CC member and good friend DJ Petropulos. A powerhouse match pits Pelletier, the former pro who was the State-Am runner-up two years ago, against DeVito, who wasn’t his usual stout self the past two days, but he has a strong match-play record in this event.
And in case one is wondering, the potential for a match pitting James and Phil Pleat – father against son – could happen only in the final since they are on opposite sides of the elimination bracket.
“Obviously, I’m thrilled with how I played,” James Pleat said. “Just to start off that way on your home course is pretty special. Today I didn’t hit it as well (as Monday), but I made some putts and that was the difference.
“Being medalist is a great feeling. In a way though, I kind of have to put it behind me, stick to my game plan, and try to keep playing well. Match play totally different.”