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Playing With Fire: Paradis Defeats Lebanon’s Pelletier For First State Am Title

  • Matthew Paradis celebrates becoming the 2018 New Hampshire Amateur champion as he defeats Pat Pelletier in match play at the Hanover Country Club on Friday, July 13, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pat Pelletier hits his ball out of a sand trap during the championship match against Matthew Paradis at the New Hampshire Amateur at the Hanover Country Club on Friday, July 13, 2018. Paradis defeated Pelletier in match play on the 13th hole. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Matthew Paradis places a marker where his ball sits on the green as he faces off against Pat Pelletier at the end of the first 18 holes in the championship match of the New Hampshire Amateur at the Hanover Country Club on Friday, July 13, 2018. Paradis defeated Pelletier in match play on the 13th hole. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Sports Editor
Saturday, July 14, 2018

Hanover — Matthew Paradis has three semesters to go at Southern New Hampshire University before he earns his degree. That’s because he spent nine months at a Florida firefighting academy after graduating from high school before accepting a SNHU men’s golf scholarship offer.

He now has the basic physical and tactical qualifications to fight fires. At this week’s New Hampshire Golf Association Amateur Championship, those skills helped him extinguish a blaze before it ever had a hope of starting.

The Concord Country Club member grabbed a lead on Carter Golf Club’s Pat Pelletier two holes into their 36-hole match at Hanover Country Club on Friday, increasing the advantage to five holes after nine and seven through 14. From there, it was just a matter of completing a 6-and-5 victory, Paradis’ first state am title after back-to-back runner-up finishes.

The 21-year-old SNHU junior knew it, too. He thrust both arms in the air when he dropped a 4-foot par putt on the 13th hole in an it’s-about-time gesture.

Pelletier understood the moment as well. His hat was already off his head, ready for the ritual post-match handshake, when Paradis sank his title-winning putt.

“It’s a big relief to finally be able to do it,” said Paradis, of Hooksett, with a knowing smile. “I’ve been getting little snide comments over the past two years about second-place finishes ... especially from my teammates. From my parents, as well. Everybody. It’s good to finally get it done.”

The championship match marked Pelletier’s deepest N.H. Amateur run in his playing career. He’d gone out in the quarterfinals three previous times during his first stint as an amateur; this was his first state am since regaining that status last summer.

The form that allowed Pelletier to earn the top match-play seed on Monday — Paradis was No. 2 — eluded him on Friday, however. And Paradis, to his credit, sank putts that few competitors managed all week on Hanover’s subtle greens.

“I hit it OK; I really didn’t hit it poorly, not as good as I’d have liked, obviously,” said Pelletier, 30, of Lebanon. “He made some putts early. I made nothing, pretty much, the entire day. So that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Pelletier, who at one point in the week went 41 holes without a bogey, went down to stay just two holes into the match with a three-putt bogey on the par-4 second hole. Paradis doubled the lead on 3, a short par-4 made shorter when the NHGA moved the tees forward to just 287 yards from the target.

Paradis bombed a driver onto the green, then sank the ensuing 30-foot putt for an eagle, even though that wasn’t necessarily the plan.

“(No.) 2 is obviously a good par there, with that tucked-back pin,” Paradis said. “I made a big two-putt; made a big 8-footer coming back to get 1 up and put a little pressure on Pat, then I made that 2 there on (No.) 3.

“I told myself I’m going playing to play aggressive all week. The tee boxes were up that first round (on Friday), so I figured I go for it.”

Paradis won the sixth and ninth holes with birdies — the latter on a 40-foot bomb of a putt — and Pelletier bogeyed the par-4 eighth, leaving Paradis 5 up after just nine holes.

“You never like to give away a hole early three-putting; that kind of blows your mind a little bit after that,” Pelletier said. “The third hole, he made an eagle putt, which was obviously big. The fourth hole, I had a chance to win the whole with a 6-footer, and I missed.

“Five, I had a chance again to win the hole and missed. Six, he hit a long one. ... On eight, I three-putt. Every time I had a chance to win a hole with a short putt, I’d miss or he’d make a good par putt or a good birdie putt. I didn’t make anything.”

Even down seven holes after a Paradis birdie on 14, Pelletier had plenty of holes to mount a comeback. A conceded birdie on the par-5 15th gave the Lebanon High and University of Rhode Island grad his first win of the day. He gave it back one hole later, failing to get up and down from the greenside bunker on the dogleg 16th.

That allowed Paradis to go into par mode the rest of the contest. His 5-under-par 65 over the opening 18 put the fire under control. Golf-course maintenance the rest of the way reduced any remaining flames to smoking cinders.

Paradis graduated from Manchester Central High in 2013, but he didn’t intend on going to college. Three generations of Paradis men have been professional firefighters, and becoming the fourth could still happen.

But given his success this week as well as his solid play for the Penmen, Paradis admitted the notion of joining a fire department might have to wait for a while.

“I was just thinking about playing another round of golf,” Paradis said. “I’m a big tournament golfer. Expecting to win in fields of 120 guys is tough, so to come out here, knowing I had to beat one person and I know what he’s doing all day, I felt pretty confident in myself that I could go out there and do that.”

Divots: Pelletier shot a 2-over 73 over the first 18 holes on Friday. It’s just the second time he’s failed to break 70 in 12 competitive rounds this summer prior to the final, that being the 1-over-71 at Concord CC qualifier on June 25 that guaranteed his spot at Hanover. “That was pass-fail,” Pelletier said. “I didn’t have to attack the course there.” ... Lebanon’s Tyler Silver might have been the most conflicted person in the gallery following both golfers. Silver knows Pelletier from Lebanon High and Carter GC connections, but he’s also Paradis’ SNHU teammate and will be a tri-captain with him in the fall. Silver and Paradis will be partners for the Tommy Keane Invitational at Hanover later this month. ... Portsmouth Country Club will host next year’s N.H. Am, with Nashua CC following in 2020. North Conway CC, which was to be this year’s site but bowed out following October storm damage, is slated to host the state am in 2021.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.