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Sweet Swing of Success: Lebanon’s Pelleiter Wins Stroke Play Title

  • Lebanon’s Pat Pelletier approaches the ball on the green on Thursday at the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship at Canterbury Woods Country Club in Canterbury, N.H. (Concord Monitor — Maddie Vanderpool)

  • Lebanon’s Pat Pelletier walks past the pin on Thursday at the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship at Canterbury Woods Country Club in Canterbury, N.H. (Concord Monitor — Maddie Vanderpool)

  • Lebanon’s Pat Pelletier attempts a putt on Thursday at the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship at Canterbury Woods Country Club in Canterbury, N.H. (Concord Monitor — Maddie Vanderpool)

  • Ryan Kohler tees off on Thursday at the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship at Canterbury Woods Country Club in Canterbury, N.H. (Concord Monitor — Maddie Vanderpool)

  • Matthew Paradis attempts a putt on Thursday at the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship at Canterbury Woods Country Club in Canterbury, N.H. (Concord Monitor — Maddie Vanderpool)

  • Matthew Paradis tees off on Thursday at the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship at Canterbury Woods Country Club in Canterbury, N.H. (Concord Monitor — Maddie Vanderpool)

  • Ryan Kohler tees off on Thursday at the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship at Canterbury Woods Country Club in Canterbury, N.H.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 8/2/2018 11:26:49 PM
Modified: 8/2/2018 11:26:54 PM

Canterbury, n.h. — Pat Pelletier didn’t have to attack Canterbury Woods Country Club on Thursday to close out the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship as much as bide his time and wait to see if someone mounted a challenge to his two-day lead.

Turns out no one could.

Taking a five-shot lead into Thursday’s 36-hole finale, Pelletier claimed his second career N.H. Stroke Play title by posting rounds of 1-over-par 73 and 4-under-par 68 for a 72-hole tally of 15-under 273. A lead that never dropped to less than three strokes ended up a victory margin of nine over Hooper’s Ryan Kohler and Concord’s Matthew Paradis, the 21-year-old who beat Pelletier in the championship match at last month’s New Hampshire Amateur at Hanover Country Club.

“I like stroke-play tournaments; I feel like my game suits stroke play better,” Pelletier said. “I don’t tend to make too many bad mistakes, so I don’t ever really make a number. … I play more solid in stroke play. I don’t try to force things as much.”

Pelletier last won the Stroke Play in 2010 as a 22-year-old fresh out of the University of Rhode Island. Older now, with a 2-year-old son and relieved of the pressures of playing golf professionally, the Lebanon High School graduate finds himself in the middle of his best summer of competitive golf ever.

It began in June with a tie for third place and low-amateur honors at the Vermont Open at Lake Morey Country Club. Pelletier followed that with the qualifying medal and a run to the state am finals, then placed second and grabbed another low-amateur award at the recent New Hampshire Open. Thursday’s win came roughly a year after Pelletier regained his amateur status.

“The year I won the Rhode Island Open (2015) — I played well in the Maine Open the week before — but that was really like 3½ weeks of gold golf,” Pelletier said. “(This) has been since the beginning of June. … I really worked hard on my putting and chipping, and my ball-striking stayed good. I played well at the Vermont Open and, since then, I’ve slowly been getting better at the little things.”

On Thursday, that largely revolved around playing smart and limiting risk.

Pelletier, who has collected tournament rounds in the 60s this summer like old memories, didn’t have to play his best golf during his morning 18. Up by five strokes as he stepped up to the 10th tee, his first of the third round, he held a six-shot edge by lunchtime.

That happened despite an uncharacteristically slow start — by Pelletier’s standards, at least — to his morning round. He bogeyed his first two holes and three of his first four, and Pelletier only briefly made it back to even par on a 1-over round despite back-to-back-to-back birdies late in his opening nine.

“At that point, you’re really not trying to come out and catch the leader right away,” Kohler said. “I was just honestly trying to keep playing some solid golf and hopefully make a few more putts then him.”

Playing together, Kohler and Paradis tried to leverage Pelletier’s slow morning start but could never get closer than three shots. Those three straight birdies — on 14, 15 and 16 — helped Pelletier regain the strokes he’d lost. And fortunately for him, none of the few rivals near him made moves of their own.

Windham’s Connor Greenleaf, Pelletier’s playing partner and five shots back after two days, ballooned to a morning 76. Paradis matched Pelletier’s 73, and Kohler, the former Fall Mountain High pitcher and a past N.H. Stroke Play and N.H. Mid-Am champ, could only pick up one shot through the morning round.

Seven of the 40 cut survivors broke par in the morning, but none of them were in Pelletier’s shadow at the start, nor were they major factors as the afternoon round beckoned.

“It’s a long day of golf, but there’s a ton of birdies out there to be had,” Paradis said. “Anything could happen. The deficit could be erased in a few holes.”

Greenleaf, Pelletier’s closest pursuer through 36 holes, essentially knocked himself from contention with a triple-bogey 7 on the opening hole of his afternoon. Paradis charged again, notching birdies on four of his first six afternoon holes to reach 8 under, enough to briefly close to within four strokes of the lead.

A somewhat mis-hit drive on the par-4 fifth signaled Pelletier’s intention to hold on. Trying to draw his ball on the 312-yard hole down from the right side of the fairway, Pelletier sent his shot wider than intended. Sailing low along the treeline, the ball hooked around to the left, hit the ground near a cart path, bounced along, caught a downhill slope and rolled to the front-right corner of the green.

Pelletier two-putted for a birdie to reach 13 under. And there, save for two back-nine holes, he would comfortably stay until a 16th-hole eagle — thanks to a 350-yard drive and 142-yard approach to a foot — that sealed the championship.

The win also burnishes his credentials for NHGA player of the year honors. Pelletier entered the day 400 points up on Paradis, but there’s still a lot of golf to be played.

“My goal at the beginning of the day was to shoot even or a couple under,” Pelletier said. “Obviously I want to shoot as low as I can, but if I shoot even to a couple under, that forces someone to go 8, 9 under today, which is obviously hard to do.”

Divots: Pelletier, who shot 68-64-73-68 for the tournament, spent the week commuting to Canterbury from Wells, Maine, where his family is on vacation. … Paradis still has a shot at catching Pelletier for player-of-the-year honors. He heads to California next week to play in the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course. “I’m happy with how I’m playing; I’m still hitting it good, even today,” said the 21-year-old, who has won the NHGA’s season-ending award the last two years in a row. … Kohler may not know Pat Pelletier well, but he’s familiar with his older brother. Travis Pelletier and Kohler were once baseball teammates at Keene State College. … Hanover’s Nate Choukas had an up-and-down final day, shooting 70-78 to finish tied for 17th at 10-over 298. Lake Sunapee’s Bobby Williams shared the low round of the morning at 3-under 69, following that with a 6-over 78 to share 21st at 12-over 300.

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




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