Houston reaches Round of 32 before falling in State Am

Gilford's Chris Houston, shown here playing for Penn State this past year, reached the Round of 32 at last week's 111th New Hampshire State Amateur Golf Tournament at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown. File photo. (click for larger version)
July 21, 2014
GOFFSTOWN The top local golfers found themselves right in the thick of things last week, competing in the 111th annual New Hampshire State Amateur Tournament at Stonebridge Country Club. The week-long event kicked off on July 14, with championship action taking place on July 19.

Gilford High School alum Chris Houston, who graduated in 2012 and now plays collegiately at Division I Penn State University, got his tournament off to a fantastic start. Houston fired a 2-under 70 in his opening round of stroke play to put him in a tie for fourth place overall, and he followed that up with an even-par round of 72 to finish with a 2-under 142 that put him in a tie for fifth position following the two-day stroke play portion of the tournament.

Houston, playing out of Laconia Country Club, recorded four birdies and two bogeys in his opening 18, as he got to 3-under with a birdie on the Par 5 17th hole before dropping a shot on 18 to settle for a 70. In round two, he recorded three birdies (first, fourth and 11th holes) to go along with one double bogey (14th). He birdied numbers one and 11 in both stroke play rounds.

Houston earned the sixth seed in the 64-person match play field, and he drew Tom Hixon of Wentworth By The Sea Country Club, the 59th seed, in the opening round. The Nittany Lion made quick work of Hixon, breezing to a 7 and 6 victory that catapulted him into the Round of 32.

That's when Houston's ride came to an untimely halt however, as he was knocked out of the tourney by 27th-seeded Matthew Killam of Newport Golf Club. Houston took Killam to the final hole before dropping a 1-up decision that saw the Newport golfer advance to the Round of 16.

It was the sixth straight year that Houston reached at least the Round of 32 at the State Am, as he reached the Round of 16 in 2013, quarterfinals in 2012, Round of 32 in 2011, quarterfinals in 2010 and Round of 32 in 2009.

Belmont native and new Belmont High School head basketball coach Jim Cilley, the 2011 amateur champion, impressed yet again on the big stage. For the eighth year in a row, Cilley, who played out of Pembroke Pines Golf Club, reached the match play portion of the tournament. Cilley made his way through the draw until the semifinals, winning four matches before falling to 2012 amateur champ Joe Leavitt, 5 and 4.

Cilley has been a fixture in the match play bracket over the years, reaching the Round of 32 in 2013, semifinals in 2012, winner in 2011, Round of 32 in 2010, Round of 64 in 2009, Round of 32 in 2008 and Round of 32 in 2007.

After shooting a two-day total of 147 (71-76), Cilley earned the 20th seed in the field of 64 golfers. He bested Peter Keilty of Portsmouth, 2 and 1, in the opening round before knocking off James Pleat (Nashua Country Club) by an identical 2 and 1 score to move on to the Round of 16.

Cilley played yet another nail-biter in that round, as he eliminated defending champion Michael Martel (Bretwood Golf Club) via a 1-up score to move to the quarterfinals. He followed that with a convincing 5 and 3 win over Ryan Friel of Souhegan Woods Golf Club to reach the semifinals.

The Moultonborough Academy golf team had several connections perform well at the amateur, as MA alum Hayden Maroun (Class of 2013) and head golf coach Ken Nilson reached the match play portion of the tournament.

Maroun, playing out of Laconia Country Club, carded a 3-over 75 to put him in a tie for 31st place after Round 1, and he followed that up with a second round 78 for a total of 153 and in a tie for 42nd position.

Nilson, a veteran of the state amateur tourney who reached the championship match in 2010, fired rounds of 76 and 78 for a total of 154 and a tie for 51st position, as he joined Maroun in the top 64 that moved them to the match play portion of the event.

In match play action, Maroun, seeded 49th, ran into a tough draw that saw him fall to 16th-seeded and 2012 Amateur champion Joe Leavitt of Atkinson Resort & Country Club, 6 and 4. Leavitt would ultimately make a run, winning two matches the next day to get into the quarterfinals of the draw.

Nilson, playing out of Ridgewood Country Club also saw his tourney come to an end in the opening round of match play, as the 54th-seeded player in the draw was knocked out by 11th-seeded Nick MacDonald of Hanover Country Club, 7 and 6. Like Maroun, Nilson's opponent made a move through the draw following the match, as MacDonald won both his matches the next day to reach the quarters.

Waukewan Golf Club's Dan Moquin and Eric Foster also competed in the tournament, with the pair finishing just outside the top 64 needed to reach the match play section. Moquin carded rounds of 80 and 82 for a total of 162, while Foster shot 83-79 for the same 162 total. The cutline to get into match play sat at 156.

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