Across the river: New Hampshire golfers explain why they chose the Vermont Amateur

  • Valley News — Greg Fennell The Quechee Club's Pat Pelletier, of Lebanon, N.H., chips his ball back to the fourth fairway during the third round of the Vermont Amateur golf championship at Rutland Country Club in Rutland, Vt., on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Valley News — Greg Fennell The Quechee Club's Andy Hunnewell, of Lebanon, N.H., reacts to a missed birdie putt on the sixth hole at Rutland Country Club during the third round of the Vermont Amateur golf championship in Rutland, Vt., on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Valley News — Greg Fennell The Quechee Club's Andy Hunnewell, of Lebanon, N.H., watches the flight of his ball from the sixth tee at Rutland Country Club during the third round of the Vermont Amateur golf championship in Rutland, Vt., on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Montague Golf Club's Bill Wilkinson, of White River Junction, Vt., reacts to a missed putt on the seventh green at Rutland Country Club during the third round of the Vermont Amateur golf championship in Rutland, Vt., on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Valley News — Greg Fennell Jay Zanleoni, of Wilder, Vt., removes the flag from the sixth green during third-round play in the Vermont Amateur golf championship at Rutland Country Club in Rutland, Vt., on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Rutland's Drake Hull, right, pauses beside the ninth green at Rutland Country Club after completing his third round during the Vermont Amateur golf championship in Rutland, Vt., on July 11, 2019. Hull ultimately won the championship, his third in a row, with a four-round total of 5-under-par 275. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 7/11/2019 9:55:08 PM
Modified: 7/11/2019 9:54:57 PM

RUTLAND — Pat Pelletier gave up an automatic berth in this week’s New Hampshire Amateur, a chance to win the tournament that barely eluded him last summer and, quite possibly, a shot at repeating as the state’s amateur golfer of the year. Andy Hunnewell decided a visit to compete at Portsmouth Country Club wasn’t worth the trouble, either.

Given a similar scenario in the future, both might just choose to visit Vermont again.

The length of the N.H. Am — up to six days to determine a champion — sometimes leads golfers to find alternatives come the second week of July. Lebanon natives Pelletier and Hunnewell were two of those guys this week, testing themselves at the Vermont Amateur at Rutland Country Club instead of their usual Granite State championship.

Rather than two-hour drives to and from Portsmouth — or, more likely, the cost of a lengthy hotel stay — the two Quechee Club representatives hit venerable Rutland and made the cut at the three-day, 72-hole, stroke-play Vermont championship. The schedule and shorter trip suited Pelletier; the more senior-friendly layout drew Hunnewell.

“It’s really just closer,” Pelletier said during a break between Thursday’s final two rounds. “When I made the decision to become an (amateur) two, three years ago, I wanted to do more local stuff. It was hard to travel. I have a 3-year-old now. I just kind of made the decision to keep it as close as I could.”

Hometown hero Drake Hull ultimately locked down his third straight Vermont Amateur championship, pulling away from Pelletier, Barre’s Bryson Richards and Brattleboro’s Jacob Zaranek for a six-stroke victory at 5-under-par 275. Hull shot a 4-under 66 in the fourth round, matching the tournament’s low 18-hole tally, to retain his title.

This week marked just the second Vermont Amateur visit for Pelletier, who played at Kwiniaska Golf Course in Shelburne — tying for third behind Woodstock’s Brian Albertazzi and Rutland’s Garren Poirier — a decade ago when the two state championships were staged on different weeks. Hunnewell had never competed against Vermont’s best amateurs before this week.

Without the status earned in New Hampshire thanks to last year’s successes, both had to go through qualifying to secure spots at Rutland. Hunnewell’s decision to skip Portsmouth eventually helped Pelletier make up his own mind.

“It was actually the day of the deadline,” Pelletier said of committing to Vermont. “It was June 20-something when they had the deadline. I had two hours before the deadline, and I hadn’t committed to either one yet. … Andy is a local buddy and friend; he said he was going to do it, so I said, ‘Y’know what? … I’ll just do it.’ ”

Hunnewell regularly reaches the match-play portion of the New Hampshire Amateur; his second-round run at Hanover last year secured this week’s automatic bid to Portsmouth. At 56, however, Hunnewell doesn’t hit the ball nearly as far as his many younger state am competitors, and that would have been a less-than-enjoyable factor had he committed to New Hampshire instead of Vermont.

“The biggest two reasons probably were distance to the course and distance of the course,” Hunnewell said between rounds. “Portsmouth (at more than 7,000 yards), for me, is too long. It wouldn’t be any fun. I’d be hitting hybrids into every hole. I know it’s a long course, and I know I’m a short hitter.”

Playing a Rutland course that measured closer to 6,200 yards from the tips, Hunnewell enjoyed a solid week. He made the cut with ease and ended up with matching rounds of 76 on Thursday, ending up tied for 22nd place at 21-over 301.

If Pelletier harbored any desire to add a Vermont state title to his New Hampshire resume, he kept it under wraps. With Hull and Richards — a recent U-32 High School graduate bound for the University of Rhode island, Pelletier’s alma mater — drawing a large gallery, Pelletier and playing partner Peter Christenson, another Rutland Country Club member, toiled in relative quiet.

After a 1-over 71 to start the day, Pelletier gained two strokes to par on the opening nine of his afternoon round. Putting woes ultimately did him in, with four late bogeys resulting in a 2-over 72.

“Playing as well as I did last year, you want to win,” said Pelletier, who finished fourth at 4-over 284. “I know putting’s hard right now. The first two or three rounds I made a lot of good par putts. This round, the first 13 holes, I could have been 4 or 5 under.”

The New Hampshire Amateur will be at Nashua Country Club next year. Vermont has yet to decide where it’ll send its championship in 2020. With top-30 finishes, both Hunnewell and Pelletier have automatic entry into next summer’s Vermont Am.

They could be making another decision about 12 months from now.

Divots: Hull is the first three-time Vermont Am champion since St. Johnsbury’s Trevor Murphy in 2005-07. … Vermont Golf Association officials stopped play for the first time at 12:49 p.m. for lightning in the vicinity. Golfers were about to return to the course an hour later when the VGA extended the delay. A pairing including Montague’s Bill Wilkinson was the only one not to complete the third round before the initial stoppage of action. Play finally resumed at 2:55 p.m. … Wilder’s Jay Zanleoni (T-24; 302), Wilkinson (T-26; 303) and Lake Morey’s Erik lindahl (T-26; 303) all earned exemptions into next year’s tourney with top-30 results. … A third Lebanon-area golfer, Cornish’s T.J. Barber, also played in the Vermont Am rather than New Hampshire, missing the 36-hole cut.

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




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