Harrity wins 15th Women’s State Am title

HANOVER – Dana Harrity says she remembers her first New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association Championship like it was yesterday, including a few words from a rival caddie that inspired her during the last few holes.

That was 30 years ago, on her home course at Abenaqui Country Club in Rye. Harrity’s 15th title, accomplished Thursday, will be remembered for other, more bittersweet reasons.

Harrity seemed to take herself out of contention for her 15th title in 30 years on Wednesday with an uncharacteristic, 10-over 81. But on the hilly, quirky, Hanover Country Club there is no shortage of potential trouble, especially on the closing holes.

Just ask Tracey Marshall, who also plays out of Abenaqui and held a one shot lead with one hole to play on Thursday.

Playing in the final threesome with Harrity already finished with a three-round score of 15-over, 228, Marshall – who lipped out on a birdie putt on 17 – needed a par to win.

When she hit her second shot behind a tree on the par-4 18th, she needed a punch out and an up and down to force a playoff. The college-aged Marshall punched out onto a cart path, hit her fourth shot over the green and down an embankment. Her troubles had just begun.

By the time Marshall had finally finished the hole with a 10, she had slipped from first to seventh, a meltdown for the ages.

“I honestly wish she had made a four,’’ said Harrity, who said she has been friendly with Marshall’s father, also an Abenaqui member, for over 30 years. “I just feel terrible for her. She’s such a great girl. I played a practice round with her and I’m going to cry for her.’’

Marshall wasn’t the only player to come up short on Thursday. Second round leader Mindy Inglis-Reid of Pembroke had a two-shot lead when play began, shot an 82, and finished fourth. Courtney Tilley of Atkinson, three back when the day started, shot a 79 and had to settle for fifth.

Wilton’s Chelsea Demers, the 2010 champion, thought she had shot her way out of contention Wednesday with a miserable, hair-pulling 82.

But Demers went from anger management one day to course management the next.

Her 71 was the best round of the day. She was three-under on the front and just three strokes from the lead after 12 holes.

Demers would bogey four of the next five holes before redeeming herself, yet again, with a birdie at 18. She had to settle for third, just two strokes behind Harrity.

“I don’t know what was going on yesterday,’’ Demers said, “but I just wasn’t myself and I lost a lot of confidence. I know what I’m capable of and those stupid mistakes really got me upset.

“Today was a new day and I figure it’s probably the last time I’ll play in the State Am in New Hampshire, so just try to go out with a bang.’’

Demers, with tentative plans to move back to North Carolina, where she graduated from college this spring, nearly pulled it off.

And so did 2011 winner Tara Watt of Manchester, who played alongside Demers on Thursday. Watt shot a 72, and wound up second, just one shot back. She started the day seven off the pace.

“Last year I was four down going into the final round,’’ Watt said, “so I figured if I played well today, I might have a shot.

“I had some lucky breaks today and I putted well, so I don’t really have any regrets.’’

At 53, Harrity says she has no plans or reason to stop playing. Her husband Peter was the oldest men’s champion when he won, at the age of 56, in 2003.

She remembers having a seven-hole lead going into the final round in 1982 when Tina Tombs, who would go on to win two LPGA events, clawed back to within one on the 15th hole.

On the 16th fairway, she overheard Tombs caddie tell his golfer “We’ve got her just where we want her.’’

It brought out a competitive fire in Harrity, then Dana Hunter, which has been burning ever since. But there was plenty of compassion as well on Thursday from the state’s iconic amateur.