Golf: Concord Country Club hosts 121st State Amateur Championships this week

Concord’s Joe Bowker watches his shot from the tee during his Round of 32 match at the 119th State Amateur Championship presented by Smuttynose at Abenaqui Country Club in Rye Beach on July 14, 2022. Bowker reached the semifinals that year and is one of 18 golfers competing on his home course this year at Concord Country Club.

Concord’s Joe Bowker watches his shot from the tee during his Round of 32 match at the 119th State Amateur Championship presented by Smuttynose at Abenaqui Country Club in Rye Beach on July 14, 2022. Bowker reached the semifinals that year and is one of 18 golfers competing on his home course this year at Concord Country Club. Courtesy of NHGA

Concord Country Club’s Bob Mielcarz tees off at the first hole at the Mount Washington Resort Golf Club during New Hampshire Amateur match play action in 2015. The 74-year-old Mielcarz, a nine-time winner of the N.H. Amateur, is playing his final championship this week on his home course.

Concord Country Club’s Bob Mielcarz tees off at the first hole at the Mount Washington Resort Golf Club during New Hampshire Amateur match play action in 2015. The 74-year-old Mielcarz, a nine-time winner of the N.H. Amateur, is playing his final championship this week on his home course. Geoff Forester / Monitor file

Concord’s Ryan Sylvester (Concord Country Club) takes a chip shot on the fourth day of the 120th State Amateur Championship at Manchester Country Club in Bedford last July. Sylvester reached the quarterfinals of the 2023 tournament and will be playing on his home course this week.

Concord’s Ryan Sylvester (Concord Country Club) takes a chip shot on the fourth day of the 120th State Amateur Championship at Manchester Country Club in Bedford last July. Sylvester reached the quarterfinals of the 2023 tournament and will be playing on his home course this week. Courtesy of NHGA

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 07-08-2024 1:39 AM

For the first time since 2012 and the fourth time ever, Concord Country Club is hosting New Hampshire’s premier golf event.

The 121st New Hampshire Amateur Championship will tee off on Monday morning and be contested throughout the entire week, culminating in Saturday’s final round to crown the champion. This year, the stakes are higher than ever. The winner of this year’s state am will receive an exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship taking place in August at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

At 6,449 yards, Concord C.C. is a shorter course than the 6,856-yard Manchester Country Club course where last year’s state am was contested. According to many, it’s a course where your short game is especially vital.

“The greens will be the true challenge of the course,” said New Hampshire Golf Association director of communications and member services Kate Billings. “They will be rolling fast and they’re undulating, so being on the correct side of the hole is going to be important.”

Bow High School golf coach Matt Davis and Concord High coach Mark McDonough, both of whom are Concord C.C. members, agree with that assessment.

“Last year being at Manchester (the competitors) really had an opportunity to (lengthen) the golf course,” Davis said. “The great equalizer (this year) is going to be the greens. My assumption is that they’ll be really fast, and if you don’t hit the approach shot to a decent place on the greens, it could be real trouble. I think a lot of guys could overpower it (and it will increase their scores).”

McDonough concurs.

“It’s not a long course, so it doesn’t favor the long hitters as much as it favors accuracy off the tee,” McDonough noted. “Like any successful round of golf, finding fairways and greens (regularly) will likely result in good scoring.

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“With that said, the Concord Country Club’s greens, in my opinion, are its biggest defense. Subtle breaks and not subtle breaks, along with tournament-ready greens, will create challenges for the players.”

McDonough’s Crimson Tide squad plays its home matches at Concord C.C., so it’s a course he used to prepping golfers for. Both McDonough and Davis believe that there is, to some degree, home course advantage.

“The greens can provide for some challenging pin placements. … Course familiarity on any course is an advantage, and CCC is no exception,” McDonough said.

Davis added: “Knowing where a pin placement is going to be, and knowing the shape of the tiers of the green, that will be pretty important to know. If you’re in the wrong spot, it’s an easy three-putt. … There’s a couple blind tee shots where you have to feel really comfortable (with your shot) because you can’t see the fairway in front of you.”

Billings also referenced that the variety of challenges in the course could present some unique game play, stating that “the driver won’t always be the choice off the tee.”

The players

If there is such a thing as home-course advantage, that is good news for the 18 competitors who call Concord C.C. home.

It will be an especially bittersweet tournament for Bob Mielcarz, the oldest competitor in the field at age 74, who is teeing off in the state am for the 43rd and final time. He’s won nine State Amateur Championship titles, more than any other golfer in the history of the competition. He won his fifth title at Concord Country Club in 1993. Mielcarz didn’t advance beyond stroke play last year, losing on a playoff hole that determined the final spots in the 64-player match play bracket.

Among the other Concord C.C. golfers competing are Joe Bowker, a 2022 semifinalist, and Ryan Sylvester, who advanced the furthest of all local golfers in 2023, reaching the quarterfinals. Former Bow High golfer and 2022 NHIAA Division II champion Hunter Duncan (now playing for Connecticut’s Taft School) and former Bow High teammate and St. Paul’s School graduate Matt Lamy will also be competing.

Keller Ramshaw, 17, is one of the youngest players in the field, who recently finished his junior year at Concord High. Ramshaw played for the Crimson Tide, helping Concord with the NHIAA Division I team title last fall. Former teammate Cam Brown is also competing.

Will McLaughlin, Brian Boylan, Derek Jensen, Dan Doyle, David Perry, Ryan Phinney, Sam Garland, Tim Pratt, Tyler Cole and Matthew Burroughs are Concord C.C.’s other members who will tee off on Monday morning.

There are several other local players outside of Concord CC who are vying for the title. Lake Sunapee C.C. member and New London resident Rob Henley was the 2023 runner-up, losing the championship round to Jack Pepin after a 37-hole battle, and Belmont resident Jim Cilley (Laconia C.C., 2022 runner-up) and Hopkinton resident Mark Stevens (NHGA e-Club) are past state am champions.

Boscawen resident and recent Merrimack Valley High School graduate Andrew Surprenant (Youth on Course) is in the mix, coming off an NHIAA Division II individual title last fall.

James Shattuck (Beaver Meadow), Will Beckford (Canterbury Woods), Matt Moore (Canterbury Woods), Ryan Waring (Canterbury Woods), Craig Patenaude (Canterbury Woods), Scott Underhill (Canterbury Woods), Zach Hellings (Angus Lea), Alexander Thompson (Passaconaway), Troy Demers (Pembroke Pines), Timothy Braley (C.C. of New Hampshire), Roy Shapard (Youth on Course), Jim Jankowski (Baker Hill), Ben Lindgren (NHGA e-Club) and Jeremy Duhamel (Manchester CC) round out the area residents and club members in the field.

Hosting duties

The State Amateur Championship doesn’t just present challenges for the golfers — it’s also a big undertaking for the hosts.

All 156 golfers will compete on Monday and Tuesday, playing a full round of 18 holes on each day. From there, the field will be cut to 64 for Wednesday’s first round of match play, followed by the rounds of 32 and 16 on Thursday, the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday and, finally, Saturday’s 36-hole championship round.

With 156 players for the first two days of the tournament, plus one caddy each and a projected 1-2 spectators per player, Concord Country Club is expecting to host around 1,000 people on site over the course of Monday and Tuesday.

“We are thrilled to be hosting this year. It’s very exciting for our tight-knit club,” said Kim Jensen, Concord C.C.’s club house manager and event coordinator. “With a competitive tournament like this, one of our main goals is to make sure the players stay fed without slowing down pace of play. Our facility will offer an outside snack station, our snack/beverage ‘hut’ out on the course and of course our restaurant is fully operational seven days a week. …Having hosted a lot of large golf events and looking at some amazing, but hot, weather in the forecast, our main priority will be keeping these golfers hydrated.”

Balancing that hospitality with keeping tournament play moving along, while also keeping the course in pristine condition, will keep Jensen, course superintendent Dave Ousterhout and director of golf Brian Moskevich, plus their staff and volunteers, very busy. But the NHGA knows that Concord C.C. is up to the task.

“It’s always well-maintained,” Billings said. “Concord Club Club is a great championship course.”