Martel wins NH State Amateur

New Ipswich golfer overcomes 4-hole deficit in final to claim crown

When Mike Martel found himself four down after 18 holes in Saturday’s New Hampshire State Amateur Golf finals, the New Ipswich native was not concerned.

Martel knew there was plenty of golf left to be played.

“I got down early, but it wasn’t a big deal because I had 36 holes,” said Martel.

And it didn’t take long for Martel, who plays out of Crotched Mountain Golf Club & Resort, to close the gap with Chris Rivard of Hudson. Martel won four of the first five holes after the midway point of the 36-hole final and then pared the 24th hole (No. 6) to take his first lead since the second hole earlier that morning. From there, Martel never trailed again.

“Once I squared it up, I thought to myself ‘I’m going to win this thing,’” said Martel.

After Rivard squared the match with five holes to play, Martel parred the 14th to take a one hole lead and then did the same on the par-3 17th — the 35th hole of the match — to win the 110th NH State Amateur final 2 and 1 at the Golf Club of New England in Stratham.

“It was a long day, but a good day,” said Martel.

It was just the last in a long line of close wins for the Mascenic graduate. Outside of his 6 and 5 victory over defending champion Joe Leavitt in the semifinals, Martel had to grind his way through match play. He defeated both David Sherbourne and Jamie Ferullo 3 and 2 in the first two rounds.

Martel then downed Chris Houston 2 and 1 in the Round of 16 and got past Brett Wilson, a Golf Club of New England member, by the same score in the quarterfinals.

Martel felt comfortable all week and points to his six-day- a-week workout routine and time with Crotched Mountain pro Matthew Bradbury as the key reasons he was able to play so consistent over 150 holes in six days.

“I putted really well,’” said Martel, who sank an eight-foot putt for the win. “It came down to the putter.”

After carrying his own bag for the beginning of the week, Martel had a familiar face with him on the course for the final three match-ups. Damon Salo, his longtime friend and teammate at Mascenic, lost in the Round of 16 to Leavitt and made the switch to Martel’s caddy for the remainder of the week. It made a big difference.

“Pretty much every putt and every shot I was asking his opinion,” said Martel.

While Martel’s opponent had the experience of playing in the finals once before, Martel never let any doubt creep into his mind even when he was down four holes halfway through the match. He had trailed Wilson by three through three holes on his home course and battled back for the win.

“It was good having the experience of being in some close matches,” said Martel.

Martel knew he belonged in the tournament and felt he was more than good enough to win it.

“I just felt if I could hit fairways and greens I would be alright,” said Martel.

After his one and only practice round, Martel recognized a couple things that helped him during his run to the prestigious title.

“The one big thing I picked up was to keep my ball in the fairway,” Martel said.

With dangerous rough and some difficult greens, Martel made some adjustments to his approach and it paid off. He knew he had to play smart in order to go far.

While the 20-year old, who helped the Vikings win three state team titles from 2007-09, had never won a match play pairing in his three previous trips to the State Am, Martel was confident entering the week.

“The way I’ve been hitting the ball and the way I’ve been putting, I knew I could make a run,” said Martel.

He was 26th overall after stroke play, which featured an even par 72 on Tuesday — one of just 10 rounds of par or better for the 144 golfers in the field during the first two days. And it was big after shooting a plus-10 on day one.

While the win is nice, Martel still has a lot more to accomplish in his golfing career.

“It feels great to make it to that point and win, but it’s not the end for me,” said Martel, who will play in a US Amateur qualifier on July 29 in Connecticut.

Salo saw his run to in the state amateur end on Friday morning when he fell to Leavitt. Leavitt won the Round of 16 match 1 up over Salo, who owns a New England Interscholastic High School Championship and three state titles from his days at Mascenic.

The match began Thursday afternoon, but was suspended due to rain with Salo 1 up after 14 holes. But Leavitt was able to take two of the final four holes from Salo, who was the highest seed remaining.

Salo shot an even par on day one of stroke play and was plus-3 on Tuesday to earn the third seed in match play. He cruised through his first two pairings, defeating Bill Everett 6 and 5 in the first round and bettering Griffin Brown 4 and 3 to set up the meeting with the defending champion Leavitt.

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