Hanover Country Club Steps to Tee, Will Host N.H. Amateur

  • Hanover junior Phin Choukas, left, Nick Grimbilas, of Brady, middle, and Justin Groundahl, of Portsmouth, right, check the distance of their shots from the fourth tee at the Hanover Country Club in Hanover, N.H. Thursday, August 25, 2016. Hanover golf hosted Windham, Portsmouth and Brady at the meet. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Todd Becker, of Manchester, N.H, chips a ball onto the putting green on Friday, July 28, 2017, during the Tommy Keane Invitational golf tournament at Dartmouth College's Hanover Country Club, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Veterans and golf pros pepper the green at the Hanover Country Club during a golf clinic for veterans in Hanover, N.H., on Aug. 16, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Rob Esler takes a swing with his golf club on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, at the Hanover Country Club in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hanover — When Alex Kirk heard that the North Conway Country Club could no longer host the 2018 New Hampshire Amateur championship, he saw an opportunity to do two things at the same time: help a desperate New Hampshire Golf Association, which had been frantically searching for a replacement site, and bring some much-needed publicity to Hanover Country Club.

On Monday, the NHGA announced that Hanover’s 118-year-old course would be the fill-in site for the six-day event scheduled for July. It is the first time since 1986 that the club will host what many consider the biggest golf event in the state.

“It was an opportunity for us to help out,” Kirk, the head pro at HCC and Dartmouth College women’s golf coach, said over the phone from Las Vegas on Tuesday. “They were scrambling to find a site. I offered because I thought we could handle it.”

Added NHGA executive director Nate Schmidt in a Monday release: “I was able to speak with Alex, who expressed strong interest in having Hanover host the event, and after that initial conversation, it was really just a matter of working out the details. We’re extremely appreciative of Hanover’s willingness to host the event, and we know that it will be a great week at one of our oldest member clubs.”

The announcement also comes at a critical point in HCC’s storied history.

In August, Dartmouth authorities confirmed that the college would be open to closing the 6,500-yard course in order to sell the land as part of a four-year plan to shift $17 million from administration to academics, leaving the course’s future uncertain.

But Kirk said he did not have the administration in mind when he reached out to Schmidt about taking on the state am next summer. The course has hosted other events, like the New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association amateur championship, throughout the season.

In Kirk’s mind, picking up another event that worked within the course’s schedule was standard operating procedure.

“To me, it’s business as usual to get as many events as I can,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt us. I see it as a positive. … We’re going to operate the best we can.”

Added Rich Parker, the Dartmouth men’s golf coach: “It could be the swan song, or this could be the coming-out party (for HCC). Having the state amateur in there, it’s a big deal. It’s a weeklong tournament, the biggest tournament in our state.”

For local golfers like Lebanon’s Pat Pelletier and Andy Hunnewell, an opportunity to stay close to home and play the state’s biggest amateur tournament on a familiar course is something worth playing for.

“I’m pumped,” said Pelletier, who regained amateur status this year after turning pro in 2011. “It’s nearby. You don’t have to worry about travel.”

Added Hunnewell: “It’s nice to not have to travel (while being) familiar with the course.”

Both said they would be playing for a chance to compete in the state am next summer.

HCC first entertained the amateur championship in 1927 and has hosted three other state ams, one mid-amateur, one junior am and two New Hampshire Open championships. Sylvain Foster was the lone golfer from Hanover CC to qualify for last summer’s state am at Keene’s Bretwood Golf Course.

“I think it’s an honor and a privilege to host it,” Kirk said. “Hanover is a traditional, old-style golf course. It’s a good test for golf. Thirty-two years is a long time. I think it’s good way for the golf community to give back. …

“It’s good exposure for us, all the best players coming up and playing our course. New Hampshire has a pretty active golf scene.”

Kirk said preparations for the championship will remain relatively the same as other tournaments the course hosts. It fit well in HCC’s schedule, running Sunday to Friday beginning on July 8 and ending just before the course hosts the Prouty Golf Fundraiser during the weekend of July 14.

It also was an opportunity bring HCC some much needed exposure.

“It’ll be a good revenue source for the club,” Kirk said. “We’re not donating it. The state golf association is paying to use the facility. That’s extra income for us. It’ll have a positive economic impact, possibly from the marketing standpoint, to see golfers come up and experience better players.

“There’s a lot going on with the college. Things are being looked at. The golf course has a lot to offer. I think we should be investing in it.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.