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Dartmouth’s Pleat wins NH Amateur, fourth in family to do so

  • Former Dartmouth College golfer James Pleat holds the trophy after winning his first New Hampshire Golf Association state amateur championship at Nashua Country Club on July 11, 2020. Pleat, a 2013 Dartmouth graduate, defeated Windham Country Club's Cam Sheedy, 2 and 1, in the 36-hole final match.

Nashua Telegraph
Published: 7/11/2020 9:36:10 PM
Modified: 7/11/2020 9:36:08 PM

NASHUA, N.H. — It was his course, his week, his day, his tournament.

Former Dartmouth College golfer James Pleat was the story of the 117th New Hampshire State Amateur Golf Championship from start to finish, played on his home Nashua Country Club course.

He started the tourney as the runaway medalist after the first two days, and he ended it with a grueling 2-and-1 win over able challenger Cam Sheedy, of Pepperell, Mass., in Saturday’s 36-hole final match to capture his first State Am crown.

Pleat becomes the fourth-generation winner of the title in his family, and all four won it at NCC. His father Phil, who caddied for him during the week, won the Am here in 1997. But his great-grandfather Thomas Leonard won the crown at NCC 98 years ago, and his grandfather, Thomas J. Leonard Jr., won multiple Ams but his last was 68 years ago, also at Nashua Country Club.

“Elation,” Pleat said, summing up his feelings moments after he won. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Obviously, it’s a dream come true.”

It was a dream that refused to die, despite a hard late charge by Bishop Guertin High School alumnus Sheedy. Pleat was 4 up with five holes to play, but Sheedy took 14, 15, and 16 on the afternoon 18 to close to within one hole with two to play. But he bogeyed 17, the 35th hole of the match, while Pleat managed a par to win it.

“That was pretty wild,” Pleat said. “I had heard he was a great putter all week, and he was making a lot of birdies here. He didn’t really make a lot of putts in the first round (of 18 in the morning), so I knew that he was due. With a guy like him, you basically have to play like he’s going to make everything. And that finally started happening.”

Pleat was two holes up after the first 18 and increased his lead in the afternoon with a birdie on the seventh and ninth to move to 4 up. Sheedy held steady, but when the match left 13, he was one bad miss away from falling.

Pleat then bogeyed 14 and 15, and Sheedy sank a birdie putt on 16. You had a feeling he was back in it when Pleat’s tee shot on 16 hit a tree and fell right back to the tee box.

“That’s never happened to me before,” Pleat said. “That was wild. It wasn’t a good swing. ... Honestly I got lucky that he missed this one (a par putt on 17) here.”

“I was fired up; that was fun,” Sheedy said. “I was making a lot of putts, but too little, too late.”

Sheedy had problems off the tee, and that hurt him. For example, on the 18th hole, the final hole of the morning, he drove the ball toward the parking lot and ended up taking a 6 to help put Pleat 2 up halfway through.

“I sucked, off the tee for the day,” he said. “I just made a lot of stupid shots. I don’t know, my putter kept me in it. I can definitely feel the effects of playing a lot of golf this week.”

The wind, thanks to a tropical storm that thankfully missed the area in terms of rain, was also a huge factor. Sheedy spoke of how he would play a Tiger Woods video game and put the wind level up to gale force. “It ended up being reality today,” he said.

“It was probably the windiest I’ve ever seen it here,” Pleat said. “It made it tough, made it so neither of us could shoot the low scores we had been during the week.”

On the match-deciding hole, a 398-yard par-4, both golfers hit to the left. But Sheedy had to clear more tree area and ended up putting his second shot to the rough off the back of the green, requiring a chip back. Pleat, however, put his squarely on target, leaving about 20 feet for birdie. It was probably his shot of the tournament — safe but in position.

“Yes, definitely,” he said. “Especially when it’s windy like this, you just want to get it on the green. Again, I got lucky that he missed the par putt, but I’m not complaining at all.”

The week also came with an unexpected tweak. Pleat, who played most of the week in Dartmouth ball cap, saw his alma mater eliminate his former college golf program and its home Hanover Country Club in a budget move during the week.

“I found out the news on Thursday,” he said. “I finished my match, was happy and went over to watch my dad’s (match), and I found out. I was pretty much devastated about it. A lot is in flux right now, but I figured the least I could do is sport the hat and bring the old bag out. It’s a tough decision and I’m disappointed in the school, but I figured like a win for the Dartmouth golf program.”

Still, could the 2013 Dartmouth graduate, who also was the medalist in the state am’s last Nashua CC visit in 2011, have imagined a week like this?

“I’d like to think that usually I have a chance to win this tournament,” Pleat said. “I’d had some success in the past, but not recently, so I wanted to change that.”

Not only did he change it, he added to his family’s golf legacy.

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