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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Stonebridge CC’s Joshua Chamberlain leads Stroke Play field

HUDSON – By about 2 p.m. Tuesday, the New Hampshire Golf Association’s 2014 Stroke Play Championships looked like it may came down to a pair of area golfers.

But the tournament’s deep field, including a former local star, caught up to them by the end of Round 1 three hours later. ...

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HUDSON – By about 2 p.m. Tuesday, the New Hampshire Golf Association’s 2014 Stroke Play Championships looked like it may came down to a pair of area golfers.

But the tournament’s deep field, including a former local star, caught up to them by the end of Round 1 three hours later.

Phil Pleat and Makenzie Denver, both of whom play out of Nashua Country Club, held the tournament’s top two spots for most of the day thanks to early tee times – Pleat shot three-under par 69, while Denver was one stroke back at 70 – but it was Stonebridge Country Club’s Joshua Chamberlain who left Green Meadow Golf Course in Hudson on Tuesday afternoon with the opening-round lead.

Chamberlain, who grew up in Merrimack and lived in Amherst for seven years before moving for New Boston this past summer, shot an five-under 67 for the day, good for a one-stroke lead over Pembroke Pines’ Jim Cilley.

“A little bit of a surprise to be honest with you,” Chamberlain said. “A four-round tournament like this and you come out with a good start, you’ve got to feel good about it.”

But Chamberlain’s lead is far from safe. A cluster of 15 golfers, including Pleat and Denver, are separated by four strokes at the top of the 102-player leaderboard. Green Meadow’s Larry Nuttall (71) and Richard Dichard (73) and Nashua’s James Pleat (74) are in the mix as well.

According to those in the tournament, the number of players still within range speaks to the depth and widespread talent representing the Granite State.

“I think New Hampshire is unique,” James Pleat said. “We have a bunch of, for lack of a better word, older guys, guys who are aging who have been there and have won a few times, who still can play. Then we have some younger guys coming up who hit it a mile and are really starting to play better.

“New Hampshire has a lot of good amateur players and I don’t think we get enough credit for that.”

The packed leaderboard hasn’t gone unnoticed by Chamberlain. He said it limits his margin for error for the rest of the tournament.

“There are a lot of good golfers in New Hampshire,” he said. “There are probably about 30 guys at the start of every tournament that have a legitimate shot of winning a tournament in New Hampshire.

“This is just one round of four. I got off to a good start but there’s so many guys that are really good golfers. It’s still anybody’s game.”

Denver, who is in a six-way tie for fifth place but only three shots off the lead, said he played with elbow soreness Tuesday after hurting himself tossing a baseball with some friends about a week ago.

Denver was pleased with his round despite injury. But still went to the driving range afterward to work on his swing, knowing improvements are necessary to stay in contention.

“I feel like I’m in a good spot,” he said. “My swing wasn’t feeling too solid, but I putt the ball well. I’m hoping (Wednesday) my swing will click as well and I can go even lower and maybe bump up into the first-place spot.”

Josh Kibbe of Green Meadow finished tied for 31st with a score of 76. Kevin Scott (Green Meadow) and Michael Jensen (Souhegan Woods Golf Club) finished tied for 40th at 77.