Ready for some fireworks?
Nineteen players are within five shots of leader Paul Pastore as the N.H. Open moves back to Bretwood Golf Course today for what figures to be a compelling shootout conclusion.
Paul Pastore, a 23-year-old pro from Stamford, Conn., takes a one-shot lead to the tee on the North Course, after shooting a 6-under 66 Thursday at Keene Country Club. He’s at 8-under 136.
The day began with a tightly bunched field; it ended the same way, just with some reshuffling of the deck.
The tournament is being played on two courses for the first time in its long history. Bretwood is long and spacious; the Keene CC is shorter and more narrow.
Pastore’s closest pursuers are Peter French of Franklin, Mass., and Jay Card of Shelter Island, N.Y., tied at 7-under. They shot 69 and 68, respectively, and are the lone players in the field of more than 100 players with sub-70 rounds each of the first two days.
Four players are two shots back; another five, including first-day leader Jason Millard, three behind, all within striking distance. Defending tournament champion Jason Thresher of Suffield, Conn., is also among that pack, after stumbling slightly Friday with a 71. He is the current New England Open winner after carding a final-day 65 at Quechee, Vt. He won this event last year at Stonebridge and had a recent run of three state Mass Open triumphs. He knows a thing or two about winning.
Pastore jumped 17 places with his 66, which featured an eagle, six birdies and a double-bogey
Jared Mactas of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., made a big leap, too, shooting 67 Friday to stand at 7 under for the tournament and one back.
“Two totally different golf courses,” said Mactas, a second-year pro competing in his first N.H. Open. “I would say that this one, off the tee, is much more of a premium. You can kind of spray it a little bit on that other course.
“I was just keeping the ball out there in front of me. It’s a pretty narrow golf course, and thankfully I didn’t hit any errant tee shots, and once you are able to keep it out in play, you’re able to just have a short ironing to most holes.”
He made six birdies and gave just one back, at the par 4 11th.
Blake Morris of Hobe Sound, Fla., Matt Hutchins of Naples, Fla., and Michael Kartrude of West Palm Beach, Fla., join Matcas at 6 under.
The cut was even par; counting ties, 46 players advance to today. The field is playing for a purse of $38,000.
Millard — who carded a six-under 66 at Bretwood, said after his round Thursday that he expected more of a struggle with the Keene Country Club layout. His round Friday matched worst second-day among the top 20 players to start the day. — tied for the worst second-day score among the tournament’s top 20, shooting a one-over 73. The other players part of the seven-way tie for sixth with Millard and Thresher are Clark Robinson, Patrick Ross, Jordan Eck and Josh Goldstein.
Coincidentally, the other top-20 golfer coming into Friday to shoot over par at the West Keene course was Brett Cairns. His 73 after a first-day 67 dropped him into a group of players at 4-under; the others being C.J. Swift, Jack Wyman and Lucas Kim.
Nicholas Pandelena, Bob Kearney and Brad Adamonis all slipped significantly at Keene Country Club, falling 19 places in the standings each after shooting 2-over 74s.
The three were part of a nine-way tie for third after Day 1; now, they are bunched in a 12-way logjam for 22nd at 2-under 142, along with Sean Kelly, Daniel Augustus, John Elliott, Chris Houston, Barry Babbitt, Charles Stubbs, Joe Lussier, Jack Lang and Christopher Crawford.
“I struggled today for sure,” said Pandelena, an Atkinson native. “I don’t think this golf course [Keene Country Club] is as good for me as the other one [Bretwood] is, but I hung in there for the last nine and made a couple birdies coming in and salvaged what was heading to be a poor round.”
Two amateurs made the cut: Kearney, 62, and Jake Hollander, 22. They both play out of Shattuck in Jaffrey.
Hollander is a native of Peterborough, while Kearney hails from Houston, Texas, but spends his summers in Monadnock Region and enjoys the local golf scene.
Kearney, after a 68 Thursday, had an up-and-down round that began with an eagle on the opening hole, a short par 5, a four-putt on the treacherous sixth green that gave many a fit Friday, and back-to-back birdies on the two finishing holes. Kearney played at UConn and had a decorated career in the amateur ranks earlier in his career.
Hollander didn’t make a bogey Thursday, but had four Friday. Still, he threw in a couple birdies to finish 1-over for the day and 1-under through two rounds.
Pandelena, who played on the Mackenzie our in Canada last season, had a runner-up finish in this event in 2013 as an amateur.
“It’s great when everybody’s coming here for the tournament. It’s kind of a home game for us,” Pandelena said. “Usually, you’ve played the golf course and you’re more familiar with it than other people are, but it’s nice to play in your state open.”
He hadn’t played in a tournament in Keene before now, he said.
Friday brought a morning drizzle and on-and-off gusty winds. It didn’t play into the hands of the field’s bigger hitters, like Pandelena.
“It’s very tough, especially if you haven’t played Keene Country Club here; t’s a tricky golf course,” Pandelena said. “You’ve got a lot more room over at Bretwood. Here, you’ve got to plot your way around. You definitely have to place your ball a little better around here.”
Pandelena couldn’t recover entirely from two bogeys and a double-bogey, but did birdie 15 and 18 to keep himself in contention.
Pastore birdied the first hole and dunked his approach at No. 2 for eagle. He also birdied three in a row: 16, 17 and 18.
The first tee time Saturday is 7:30 a.m.; the leaders — Pastore, Card and French — go off at 9:45 a.m.
It’s still wide open.
“I think if I can forget about today and just play a little better tomorrow, we’ll be in a good spot,” Pandelena said.
Mactas added: “You’ve just got to play good golf tomorrow, that’s all that’s left. The guys that are at the top of the board after the first two rounds are all good players; they all have a chance to win. You’ve just got to play one good round.”
Kearney and Hollander were the only area players to make the cut, though Bretwood veteran Mike Blair, 63, fashioned a tidy round of 75 Friday with four birdies. ... Mike Martel of New Ipswich, a popular figure at Bretwood since winning the state amateur there in 2017, got through right on the cutline. He’s even par for the event, though not in the form that had a couple weeks ago when he captured the Mass Open. ... The home cooking was nice for Nick Fennucio, 26, the reigning Keene CC club champion, who was five shots better than Thursday, also shooting 75. ... Play at the trick uphill, dogleg par 4 sixth was backed up for much of the afternoon, as wind-strewn pine needles littered the steeply sloped green. Players had to use towels to clear paths for their putts. The hole, for its difficulty alone, can back up play ... 39 players shot scores below par Friday at Keene Country Club, as compared to 37 Thursday at Bretwood.