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Monday, July 14, 2014

Ex-NHL, UNH player Ty Conklin competing in State Am golf tourney

GOFFSTOWN – Ty Conklin knows pressure. The former NHL netminder had plenty of it heaped on him for 12 years with six teams – Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues.

Stepping on the golf course at Stonebridge Country Club for Monday’s opening round of the 111th State Am, Conklin faced a new pressure he’s only just beginning to know. ...

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GOFFSTOWN – Ty Conklin knows pressure. The former NHL netminder had plenty of it heaped on him for 12 years with six teams – Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues.

Stepping on the golf course at Stonebridge Country Club for Monday’s opening round of the 111th State Am, Conklin faced a new pressure he’s only just beginning to know.

“It’s just a hobby for me, this is only the first tournament - no, the second tournament I’ve entered,” said Conklin, who played in the Seacoast Amateur Golf Tournament at the end of June. “It’s a lot different being nervous in goal for me, something I’ve done my whole life, versus on that first tee. It’s a lot different, a lot different.

“I’m not sure exactly how to handle that yet. I’m sure once you play a lot more competitive golf, it becomes more routine and you learn how to handle it better. But it’s fun, it really is fun to get nervous again.”

In the Seacoast Am, Conklin finished tied for 46 in a field of 94, shooting a seven-over par 79 on Day One at Rochester Country Club, making the cut on Day Two at Portsmouth Country Club with a six-over 78, and an eight-over 79 in the final round at his home course of Breakfast Hill Golf Club in Greenland.

Limited during his playing days, when he would average just three rounds a season during road trips to Florida or Arizona, the Seacoast resident has plenty of time to hit the ball now. Even with his new job as a goalie development coach and scout with the Blues. He spends his time traveling during the hockey season, only stopping in St. Louis during training camp and recently during development camp.

So with more time to enjoy his hobby, Conklin decided to face the best amateur golfers the Granite State has to offer.

“I had the time,” said Conklin, who was Hockey East Player of the Year in 2000, and a Hobey Baker Award finalist at the University of New Hampshire in 2000 and 2001. “I really just wanted to see how it was, what it’s all about. It’s harder than you think the first time you do it.

“There are really good golfers out here. It’s really a collection of good golfers.”

One of those golfers, Nashua’s Phil Pleat, thought back on his years as an amateur and can’t remember any other former professional athlete taking part in a New Hampshire Golf Association event.

“That’s great that he’s out here,” Pleat said. “There’s a guy down in Massachusetts, Mike Dunham – the former New York Rangers goalie – who’s like 50 something. He plays in events down there. But I can’t recall anybody from a professional sport other than golf ever playing in the State Am during my playing days.”

But there was one more big-four pro athlete to play an NHGA event in the modern era. Former New England Patriots and Chicago Bears receiver Steve Schubert played in the Mid-Am at his home course of Manchester Country Club in 2011. He failed to qualify for the final round after shooting a five-over 76 in Round One and a 16-over 87 in Round Two.

Conklin is in a nine-way tie for 91st, along with Green Meadow golfer Mark Brogan, after shooting a 10-over 82 on Monday.

First time for
everything

This is the first time Stonebridge Country Club has hosted the State Am. Not that it’s been out of the NHGA loop. It’s been the site of many NHGA events in the past.

Portsmouth Country Club’s Craig Steckowych won the inaugural Stroke Play title at Stonebridge in 2000, and Pleat won it at the Goffstown course three times (2002, 2003, 2005). The event shifted to Green Meadow Golf Club in 2006.

It also hosted the 2013 State Open Championship, won by Vermont’s Jesse Larsen. Day One leader Nicholas Pandalena (six-under 66), of Atkinson Resort and Country Club, and Bretwood Golf Club’s Damon Salo (five-under 67), currently in second, finished in the top six at that event.

Carved out of the Goffstown hillside in 1998 by owner/developer Ron Merino and architects Phil Wogan and George Sargent, plays 6,818 yards from the back tees but has been set up in the 6,400-6,500 range for Monday and Tuesday’s medal play qualifying rounds.

Local contenders

Nashua’s James and Phil Pleat are in a nine-way tie for 11th place after shooting even-par 72s. Phil teed off at 8:15 a.m., wrapping up just in time to caddy for his son, who took teed off at 12:45 p.m.

The Pleats sit in a tie for that 11th spot with fellow locals Ryan Brogan, of Nashua Country Club, and Ryan Friel, of The Overlook.

The field of 138 gets chopped to 64 after Tuesday’s second round. Ties are broken up during the “March to Match Play” on Tuesday night.