Cilley edged in State Am semifinals


by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

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Tilton's Jim Cilley watches his shot on the seventh tee box at Laconia Country Club during semifinal action against Matthew Paradis in the 113th State Amateur Championship on Friday. Cilley reached his fourth semifinal in six years before falling, 3 and 2, to Paradis. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
July 18, 2016
LACONIA For the fourth time in six years, Tilton's Jim Cilley found himself just two wins from a championship on Friday. But the 2011 champion was unable to navigate his way all the way through the field at the 113th State Amateur Championship at Laconia Country Club.

Cilley, who played out of Ridgewood Country Club in Moultonborough, clawed back but couldn't get over the hump in the semifinals, falling to Concord's Matthew Paradis, 3 and 2, to close out yet another outstanding effort at the State Am.

"I played great all week so I really can't complain," said Cilley, the boys' basketball coach at Belmont High School. "I just didn't get it done (in the semifinals). I misjudged a few things and then kind of ran out of holes at the end."

Cilley opened his day with a 4 and 3 win over Jamie Ferullo of Rochester Country Club, as he trailed by two holes early before eventually getting the match all square after nine. He won holes number 10, 11, 13, and 14 to pull away for the quarterfinal win that sent him through to the semifinals.

In the loss to Paradis, Cilley trailed for most of the round, but pulled to within just 2-down with a win on 15. An errant tee shot on 16 slowed the momentum however, and he was unable to get up and down in dropping the hole and the match to Paradis, who plays at Southern New Hampshire University.

"I over-read most of my putts in the afternoon," Cilley explained. "I made some to extend things probably further than they should've gone, but credit to Matt his low trajectory was a benefit for him today."

Cilley kept grinding however, trying to extend the match with a plethora of long birdie attempts on the back nine that didn't fall.

"My mindset was to just get it to 17 and go from there," he offered. "But I was between clubs a bit on 16 and couldn't recover when I missed right."

One shot, does not a round make. But it can jumpstart things in a hurry. Cilley saw that up close and personal in the Round of 16 against Overlook Golf Club's Ryan Friel, as a monster effort from the woods on No. 10 catapulted him to a 3 and 2 victory. It was his fourth quarterfinal or better appearance in the last six years, and his ninth year in a row competing in the match play portion of the tournament.

"I just hit the ball solid, took advantage of (Friel's) mistakes and made some putts when I had to," offered Cilley after his Round of 16 win. "The first few holes, I felt like I was rushing myself. I tried to slow myself down and focus the rest of the way."

The turning point seemed to come on 10, where he was 1-down to Friel and in trouble after a wayward tee shot put his ball left of the fairway in between a pack of trees. With Friel positioned well and landing his approach shot in solid birdie territory, Cilley came up with a perfectly-executed 8-iron punched through and around a tree with a bit of a draw from just over 100 yards. The ball landed inside Friel's, stopping about six feet from the pin. He sunk his birdie from there, winning the hole to get the match back to all square.

"That shot out of the trees almost settled me," he explained. "It gives you a little confidence because you feel like you almost stole (a hole). I grabbed the momentum back from him and you could almost see it in his face."

Cilley followed with a birdie on 11 to take a 1-up lead, and he extended the advantage with birdies on 13 and 14 to take a 3-up lead that he would ultimately secure for the 3 and 2 win.

"You're always battling (the pressure) out here, it's just a matter of how you handle it," Cilley said. "I've been playing in this tournament a long time but you still get nervous in key situations. You just have to withstand those nerves and make good swings."

Cilley was seeded second in the field after the 36-hole stroke play to begin the week. He posted rounds of 70 and 71 for a 3-under 141, behind only Ryan Tombs of Manchester Country Club (135). He opened match play with a Round of 64 victory over Charlie McNeeley (5 and 3), and took down Nate Choukas in the Round of 32, 3 and 2.

Belmont's Thomas Aragona Jr. of Lochmere Golf & Country Club also represented the locals at the State Am, and he finished just two strokes outside the cut line of match play after a two-round stroke play total of 159. He opened with an 82 before closing the gap with a second round 77 to get close to the magic number.

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