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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gillis in the lead

SALEM – Tom Hixon spent the four days prior to the 2014 Junior Championship at rest. But while the defending champion was saving his energy, Nashua’s Brandon Gillis was taking practicing runs at Campbell Scottish Highlands to prepare himself for Monday’s opening round.

The extra work paid off. ...

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SALEM – Tom Hixon spent the four days prior to the 2014 Junior Championship at rest. But while the defending champion was saving his energy, Nashua’s Brandon Gillis was taking practicing runs at Campbell Scottish Highlands to prepare himself for Monday’s opening round.

The extra work paid off.

Gillis, who golfs out of Souhegan Woods Golf Club in Amherst, shot a 68 and went three under par for a three-stroke lead atop the field of 64 junior golfers after the first day of the three-day New Hampshire Golf Association event.

“Front nine I played fantastic. I hit four birdies and a bogey and shot a 33, so three under,” Gillis said. “In the back nine, I struggled a little bit, wasn’t as easy to make a putt, but all in all it was pretty good.”

Gillis was one of just two area golfers to reach the Championship Flight after Round 1. Sky Meadow Country Club’s Sam Nielson also made the cut after he shot a 75 on Monday to tie for 12th.

“I expected to do well,” Gillis said. “I’m just comfortable on this golf course.”

Hixon, a Rye native out of Wentworth By the Sea Country Club, tied for
second with Windham Country Club’s James McKee with an even par at 71.

Hixon said he felt rusty early in the day. He shot two over par with no birdies in the front nine, but went under two the rest of the way with four birdies.

Despite the early struggles, the Portsmouth High School standout said he still likes his chances to repeat this year.

“It’s a long week, and I’m alright with even par so my game is at its best toward the end of the week,” Hixon said, later adding, “(Monday) is kind of just getting back into it. I want to save my energy and hopefully I’m at my A-game come (Tuesday) afternoon and Wednesday. That’s kind of the key I think.”

One advantage Gillis and Hixon both have is playing in the same group as one another. This forces each of them to stay focused and motivated at each hole.

“It was great to play with somebody who shot a good round,” Hixon said. “Kind of made me make more birdies and get back in it. So it was good.”

Aside from Gillis and Nielson, Monday was tough for other local golfers.

Austin Baker, a 17-year-old out of Nashua Country Club, tied for 29th overall after shooting an 80 on Monday. After dedicating his spring to helping Campbell High School to the Division III baseball title, Baker said he hasn’t had much time to practice his golf game, which he said was apparent early in the round.

“I should be back in the next round in match play,” he said. “I was starting to find it at the end.”

August Darula and Michael Jensen, both out of Souhegan Woods Golf Club, shot an 80 and 81, respectively.

Nashua Country Club’s Tommy Ethier shot an 86 Monday to tie for 46th overall. Ethier was unhappy with his performance afterward.

“Nothing was working: irons, no short game,” said Ethier, a 15-year-old Bishop Guertin student. “Just gotta make some putts, that would help out a lot.”

Brennen Gillis of Souhegan Woods Golf Club thought he underachieved as well.

“I feel like I definitely could’ve done a lot better because I played here (Sunday) in a practice run and did a lot better that day so it was definitely getable,” said Gillis, a 16-year-old Merrimack High School student who shot an 87.

“I’m just gonna have to make the best of it. It is what it is. I’m just gonna have to start practicing more.”