GREENLAND — After a long road filled with tight matches, upsets and a constant defiance of the odds, Peterborough native and ConVal alum Jake Hollander is on the cusp of history at this year’s N.H. Amateur golf championship.
After a pair of 1-up wins Friday at Portsmouth Country Club — over Nick Kalil in the quarterfinals and Sam Barton in the semis — Hollander, 22, representing The Shattuck Golf Club in Jaffrey, punched his ticket to Saturday’s final round. He is set to tee off at 7:30 a.m. for a 36-hole bout against John DeVito of Passaconaway Country Club.
If Hollander wins, he would be just the fourth Monadnock Region golfer to win the amateur title, joining Derek MacAllister (2004), Hugh Barrett (1980) and Paul Kennett (1968).
“It was a fun day out there,” said Hollander, who hadn’t advanced out of the Round of 32 in either of his previous two State-Ams. “Playing Nick this morning, that was a real battle. And the afternoon was a back-and-forth battle.”
Kalil, the No. 39 seed and last remaining representative of the host course, had a 2-up lead over Hollander after eight holes, but the No. 15 seed fought back on the back nine. Hollander won holes 11, 13 and 14, then held his 1-up advantage for the rest of the contest, sealing it with a par putt on 18.
Kalil made a costly mistake on 14, hitting his drive into the pond, and ultimately bogeyed the hole.
Down one on the par-4 17th, Kalil had a strong approach shot to leave himself a 10-foot birdie putt to tie the match. He read it correctly but left it short.
“The things that are going to stick out for me are that drive and a putt on 17,” Kalil said. “[Hollander] did everything he needed to do when he needed it. I don’t feel like I lost the match. I feel like he won it, for sure.”
In his semifinal match, Hollander — a rising senior at Division III University of Redlands (Calif.) who was an Honorable Mention All-America last season — took on No. 3 seed Sam Barton of Kingswood Golf Club. Barton was the second top-three seed Hollander had faced so far, after upsetting No. 2 seed Brandon Gillis in the Round of 16 with another 1-up win.
Hollander and Barton traded blows on the front nine, with Barton winning holes 1 and 6 and Hollander taking 2, 5 and 8 to go 1-up. Hollander made birdie on 11 for the second time that day to increase his lead, but Barton answered with a birdie on 17 to bring it down to the final hole.
In the end, both players bogeyed 18 to give Hollander another close win.
Four out of Hollander’s five matches have gone to the 18th hole, and his first-round win over former champion Daniel Arvanitis of Derryfield Country Club went 20 holes.
“You always hope you can [win]. But you have to play golf,” Hollander said. “I started with 77 [on the first day Monday] and didn’t think my game could turn around as much as it did.”
While Hollander may have flown under the radar in this tourney, his opponent certainly didn’t.
DeVito, the No. 5 seed who shot a tourney-leading 2-under par 70 on Monday, has been a top competitor throughout the week. But like Hollander, he’ll also be making his first trip to the finals Saturday.
“This is great,” said DeVito, a Nashua native whose best previous finish was a trip to the quarterfinals two years ago. “Like I said earlier in the week, you’ve just got to fight through one match at a time. Now I’ve got one more and hopefully I can win it.”
DeVito had a slightly quicker path to the finals than Hollander, beating No. 29 Andrew Purse of Bald Peak Colony Club in the quarterfinals, 3 and 2, and dispatching No. 41 Mathew Gover of Atkinson Resory & Country Club in the semis, 2 and 1. Only one of DeVito’s five wins has forced him to go to the 18th — a 19-hole victory over No. 28 Nick Hampoian of the Golf Club of New England in the Round of 32.
DeVito will also be a familiar opponent for Hollander, though it won’t bring up the most pleasant memories for Hollander. DeVito eliminated Hollander in the Round of 64 in the 2017 State-Am at Bretwood Golf Course.
Hollander will certainly be aiming for a better result on Saturday, with the hopes of bringing the amateur title back to the Monadnock Region.