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Friday, July 18, 2014

Joe Leavitt knocks Phil Pleat out of New Hampshire golf tourney

GOFFSTOWN – Phil Pleat has been in this spot before. Thursday’s Round of 32 match was not going to jump start a run to his fourth New Hampshire Golf Association State Amateur title.

Preventing that was Atkinson Resort and Country Club’s Joe Leavitt, a former champion himself in 2012. ...

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GOFFSTOWN – Phil Pleat has been in this spot before. Thursday’s Round of 32 match was not going to jump start a run to his fourth New Hampshire Golf Association State Amateur title.

Preventing that was Atkinson Resort and Country Club’s Joe Leavitt, a former champion himself in 2012.

The Nashua Country Club golfer, who won the event in 1981, 1985 and 1997, was two down by the 11th hole before working the match even to force extra holes. Technically, it ended up as hole, singular, as Leavitt won on the first extra the duo played at Stonebridge Country Club.

Pleat knew he needed to close out on the 18th green if he was going to beat Leavitt, who advanced to the Round of 16 later in the day. The 20-year-old Atkinson native won that match as well, beating Rochester Country Club’s Jamie Ferullo 3 and 2 for a spot in Friday’s quarterfinals.

“I figured I was going to try and win it on 18,” Pleat said, “because that first playoff hole would be tough for me to make it to the green in two. I couldn’t take that chance. I knew 18 was my opportunity to pull out a win.”

It didn’t happen for the 57 year old, who was 1 up after winning the fourth and fifth holes. He made what he considers “two of the worst swings made all week,” when he hit water on six and lost a ball on seven to fall one back heading to the eighth tee.

Pleat birdied eight to get even. Leavitt birdied nine to go 1 up, then went 2 up after winning the 10th. The pair halved the 11th, 12th and 13th before Pleat birdied 14 to get within one. Two mores halves led to Pleat making it all square with a win on 17, which held through 18 with another even hole.

“I played well in spots, but I didn’t play well enough to beat him,” Pleat said. “He played good enough to win. I mean he can play a lot better obviously. He’s a very good player, and he should probably go deep. It was a fun match, I just wish I could have played better, longer.”

It wasn’t much longer for Phil’s son James Pleat, also of Nashua and Nashua Country Club.

James dropped his Round of 32 match 2 and 1 to former champion Jim Cilley, of Pembroke Pines Country Club, who won the event in 2011. Pleat never led, but wasn’t ever out of it.

“It was a tough match,” James Pleat said. “We both got off to not the greatest start, but it was back and forth the whole match. I never led, actually, so we were either all square or he was leading for the entire match. It was tough, but I think it was closer than that. Whenever someone made a birdie, the other made a birdie the whole after that. It was a good match and he’s a good player.”

For Pleat, falling behind meant winning holes just to get even.

“I was definitely trying to play catch-up, but I was within striking distance for basically all of the match,” Pleat said. “This course is tricky, and there are some risks you can take so you can catch up.’’

Past champs still going

There were seven former champions involved in match play on Wednesday. By the end of Thursday that total was cut down to three.

Qualifying for the Round of 64 were the last four champions – Crotched Mountain Golf Club’s Michael Martel (2013), Atkinson Resort and Country Club’s Joe Leavitt (2012), Pembroke Pines Country Club’s Jim Cilley (2011) and Hanover Country Club’s Nick MacDonald (2010) – and three legends of Granite State golf – Portsmouth Country Club’s Craig Steckowych (1990, 1998), Derryfield Country Club’s Dan Arvanitis (2001) and Nashua Country Club’s Phil Pleat (1981, 1985, 1997).

Of that group, only Leavitt, Cilley and MacDonald lived to see another day.

Steckowych was the first eliminated, suffering an upset in the Round of 64. Steckowych, seeded seventh, fell 4 and 3 to Exeter Country Club’s Kurt Eddins, who entered the match as the 58th seed.

Arvanitis and Pleat both fell in the Round of 32, with Arvanitis dropping his match, 2 and 1, to Bretwood Golf Club’s Damon Salo and Pleat falling in 19 holes to fellow past champion Joe Leavitt, of Atkinson Resort and Country Club.

Defending champion Michael Martel went the furthest of those eliminated. His tournament ended in the Round of 16 courtesy of Cilley’s 1-up victory.

The three survivors will tee off in Friday’s quarterfinals with an eye on being the first champion in the last 12 years to have previously won the event.

Family feuds

The Pleats weren’t the only father-and-son duo on the course Thursday. Loudon Country Club’s Bob and Ian Landry actually faced each other in the Round of 32. With a chance to rub it in his son’s face, following a 4 and 3 victory, Bob took the high road.

With the 15-hole win, Landry advanced to the Round of 16 where he eventually lost 4 and 2 to The Overlook’s Ryan Friel.

Two more days

Quarterfinalists tee off Friday morning for a chance to stick around for another match in the afternoon. Following the morning session, golfers get a 30-minute lunch break before returning to the course for the semifinals.

The 111th State Am wraps up Saturday with a 36-hole match for the title. The finalists will tee off at 8 a.m. for the first 18 holes.