By the 10th hole, Jim Cilley of Laconia Country Club knew he just about had it in the bag.
The Belmont native shot a 71 on the third day of the New Hampshire Golf Association Stroke Play Championship at Keene Country Club Thursday to earn his first individual NHGA win since 2011.
“Feels really good,” said Cilley after wrapping up the tournament in the brutal heat. “I thought if I hit the driver better and putt as well as I have been, I should be in good shape.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
Cilley said he had two drivers and two putters in his bag and decided to use his old driver for the final day of competition.
“And I don’t think I missed one all day,” he said. “I hit it perfect.”
Cilley came into Thursday two-over-par and played with Cameron Sheedy (Windham Country Club) and Mike Blair (Bretwood Golf Course) who occupied the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the standings, respectively.
Blair was one shot out of the lead at tee time.
Cilley bogeyed the first hole but settled down from there, making birdie on three of the last five holes on the front nine, including a tremendous shot off the tee on hole eight — landing about two feet from the hole — to set him up for the birdie.
He was a hair away from birdie on hole seven, but settled for par after his putt rolled around the top of the hole and back out onto the green.
“Around the turn was the big swing,” Cilley said. “Making the par putt on six and then lipping out the birdie putt on seven, then the shot on eight was obviously — you’re not expecting that necessarily.”
He started the back nine with a birdie on hole 10 — his third birdie in a row — at which point he had a comfortable lead and went on cruise control from there.
“Seeing what the lead looked like, I started playing a little more conservatively,” Cilley said, adding that he didn’t use a wood after the 14th hole.
While Cilley caught his groove on the back half of the course, Blair and Sheedy struggled to find the stroke that had brought them success in the first two days of the tournament.
Sheedy, 21, finished tied for fourth place while Blair, 65, finished ninth.
“I just got into a funk,” Blair said. “After the sixth hole — I was doing fine up until the sixth hole — and then I just couldn’t get the ball up and down. I wasn’t chipping close enough to have a good chance to make the putt and save par. I left myself trying to make six-, eight-, and 10-footers to save par and that’s tough.
“Didn’t hit the ball well today, but the first two days were really good, so overall I’m happy with the event,” Blair added.
Sheedy fell behind after double bogeys on holes one and six but played even the rest of the way to bounce back and get the top-five finish.
Craig Steckowych (Portsmouth Country Club) finished in second place, three shots behind Cilley, and Austin Fox (Derryfield Country Club) finished third.
Full results can be found on the NHGA website.