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Hudson’s LeClair aims to make State Am run

Noah Leclair of the Nashua Country Club, reacts to a missed putt on the 17th hole during the 116th New Hampshire Amateur Championship Monday, at the Portmsouth Country Club. [Rich Beauchesne/Seacoastonline]

GREENLAND – Just three days north of his 14th birthday, Noah LeClair felt right at home slugging it out with the big boys, at least after a handful of front nine jitters.

Day 1 at the New Hampshire State Amateur went pretty much as one might expect, the Hudson native and Nashua Country Club junior finding his swing after three straight three-putts to open Monday morning and grinding out the rest of the day here at Portsmouth Country Club.

Carding a 7-over par 79, the soon-to-be freshman at Alvirne High sits just off the number, tied for 66th (64 advance to Wednesday’s match play) with the second 18 holes of medal play on tap

Tuesday.

He, of course, couldn’t win it on Day 1, but he made sure not to play himself out of it either.

“I’m right there, right in it,” said LeClair, who overcame a rugged 42 on the front nine and rallied to shoot a 37 (1 over) on the back.

“A little stronger start (Tuesday), and I could be in a pretty good position to make it.”

The youngest player in the State Am field, LeClair has done the work needed to get here.

“I play pretty much every day,” said the 3.2 handicapper. “Gotta get my game sharp.”

LeClair was introduced to the game early, at age 6, by his dad Derek. He took to it immediately.

“I was young when I started playing tournaments,” said LeClair, who limits his non-golf sports participation to some rec hoop in the winter. “I’ve been loving it ever since.”

A regular in the junior ranks, he’s be a threat for the State Junior title later this summer, but it took a run through the State Am a year ago to convince LeClair he was ready.

“I’ve seen what (good friend and playing partner) Bryce (Zimmerman) has done, and he’s played in three State Ams,” said LeClair. “Then I caddied for my dad in this last year at Hanover Country Club, and I knew this was a tournament I wanted to play in.”

On Monday morning, he teed it up with a pair of adults, Matt Walsh and Scott Rolph, and there was little to no intimidation.

“My dad tried to introduce me to as many people as he could, so I could just relax,” said Noah. “I tried to focus on my game, go about things shot by shot.”

Portsmouth was playing long from the back tees, and while LeClair is a lanky 5-foot-10, he wasn’t surrendering length to his playing partners on Monday.

“This year, I picked up a lot of distance on my drives,” said LeClair. “I’m hitting it 270 or 280.”

Funny, this morning the LeClairs will again make the trek to the Seacoast with one goal in mind.

Dad Derek, who shot a sizzling even-par 72 Monday, and son Noah, are shooting to qualify for match-play.

No more niceties, and introductions today. Round 2 is up at the State Am.

And for both LeClairs, it’s game on.