NASHUA — Day 1 at the 117th N.H. Amateur golf championship is in the books, and eight players representing eight courses finished the day with sub-par rounds.
Ryan Kohler of Hooper Golf Course in Walpole is among them. The veteran golfer shot a 2-under par 69, making five birdies, and will give chase for medalist honors in the second and final day of stroke play Tuesday.
He will start four shots back of James Pleat of the host Nashua CC, who shot 6-under 65. Pleat, 29, who was medalist when the event was last staged here, in 2011, at 7-under for two rounds, toured both nines in 3-under Monday.
“James put together probably the best display of driving a golf ball I think I’ve ever seen,” Kohler, 36, said. “He was hitting it 40 yards by me and splitting every fairway.”
Kohler said the key to his round was playing the four par-three holes well. The par threes are considered a strength of the Nashua course, hosting this event for a 14th time.
Tuesday’s round will set the 64-player field for match play beginning Wednesday. A 36-hole final Saturday will determine the winner.
Among other area players who positioned themselves to advance are Cam Salo of The Shattuck in Jaffrey, who shot even-par 71; James Kinnunen of The Shattuck and Bob Kearney of Bretwood, each of whom shot a 1-over 72; and Jake Hollander, the defending State-Am runner-up, also of The Shattuck, who fashioned a steady round of 75.
Kearney, a decorated senior amateur who lives in Houston, Texas, but spends summers in this region, had four birdies and five bogeys. He was the low amateur at last year’s N.H. Open.
Those with their work cut out are Nick Fenuccio of Keene CC (80) and Mitchell Cormier of Hooper (82) and Tim Yarosevich of Bretwood (82). They will have ground to make up Tuesday to extend their weeks.
For Bretwood veteran Mike Blair, a one-time semifinalist of this event, it was a tough opening day. Blair shot an atypical 84. Erik Karlson of the Shattuck shot a 93.
Among notables, 18-year-old phenom William Huang shot 65. The University of Stanford-bound 18-year-old gained entry into the State-Am with a 9-under 63 in one of the N.H. Golf Association qualifiers and had seven birdies Monday, including four on his inward nine, where he shot 32.
Pat Pelletier, the runner-up in 2018, started on the 10th hole and birdied the course’s first three holes after making the turn. John DeVito, the defending champion, opened with 75 and is in the hunt.
Phil Pleat, James’ father, who is a three-time State-Am winner, opened with a tidy 71 on a course he has more familiarity with than arguably any player in the field. He is 64 but is considered a threat.
Two Seacoast Region veterans, Jared Lamothe and Craig Steckowych, shot 73 and 79, respectively. They have three titles between them. Lamothe won his at Keene CC. His father, Dick, was a onetime Keene High School basketball standout.