GREENLAND — Home turf was defended well on Wednesday.
Of the four Portsmouth CC members playing the opening round of match play at the New Hampshire Amateur — plus one guy who grew up playing here — four were winners. Two of them — two-time champ Craig Steckowych and former Seacoast Am champ Nick Kalil — will play each other in Thursday morning’s Round of 32.
Kalil, playing the tournament for the first time in six years, saw his 4-up lead on Austin Baker of Nashua CC whittled to one by the 18th hole, but hit two solid shots and a solid lag putt to hold on for the 1-up win.
“It was more eventful that I wanted it to be,” he said. “This is obviously special (being at Portsmouth CC). It’s my home club and I live six minutes away. I definitely wanted to make a point of trying to play well this year.”
Thursday morning’s Round of 32 card also includes a battle between Cochecho CC foes Mike Mahan and Kurt Eddins, both of whom took care of their opening-round business handily.
Eddins followed up his even-par 72 qualifying round on Tuesday with a 3-and-2 win over Griffin Barbaro of Stonebridge CC. Mahan took out home-course member Peter Keilty 5-and-3.
“My game is actually in a decent spot when I get off the tee,” said Mahan, who was ousted by Eddins in the third round two years ago at Bretwood CC. “When I get off the tee I have a lot of confidence in what I’m doing. All my bogeys this week have been because of tee shots.”
Two-time champion Mike Flynn of Cochecho CC, Eric Evans of Portsmouth CC, 14-year-old Brian Adams and Ryan Quinn of Breakfast Hill, Nick Hampoian of the Golf Club of New England, Portsmouth native and 1999 champion Jared Lamothe, and Jamie Ferullo of Rochester CC also won matches Wednesday to advance.
It was a day largely free of upsets, with medalist Ryan Brown of Manchester CC cruising and Brandon Gillis of Green Meadow emerging in extra holes against clubmate Phil Smith.
Evans got the local brigade going, despite trailing in his match against Joshua Lacasse of Pembroke Pines after 11 holes.
He squared things with a rare birdie on the par-4 12th, a hole that was measuring nearly 500 yards with a new tee, hitting a 4-iron to 12 feet. He then won 13 and 14 with pars, and closed out the match by planting an 8-iron 18 inches away from the hole on the par-3 16th.
“I knew it was good as soon as I hit it,” said Evans. “It was a good way to finish. It was the best shot I hit all week.”
After closing out qualifying with a 71, he seems to be building momentum. He faces Tilmman Evers of Canterbury Woods in the Round of 32.
“I’m playing a lot more solid than I was in the last couple months,” he said.
Quinn got extended in his match against Joshua Lacasse of Pembroke Pines, but helped himself by making a 10-footer to save par on the 16th to maintain his 1-up lead. He closed the match out with a par on the next hole.
“I had the putter working again today,” said Quinn, who tied for second in qualifying.
Kalil led by four on the 12th tee and was mentally extending his lead after seeing Baker hit into the hazard off the tee. But he then deposited his second shot into Great Bay and ended up losing the hole.
“It was a momentum swing, for sure,” he said. “He got a boost there.”
Baker won the par-5 14th with a birdie and got within one when Kalil failed to get up-and-down on No. 17.
After closing things out on the 18th, he gets Steckowych, a two-time champ who’s been cruising all week, both in his qualifying rounds and in his 6-and-5 win over Patrick Hesseltine of Pheasant Ridge.
“The best compliment I can give Steck is even if it’s not going good for him, he gets himself to another level of focus,” said Kalil. “I think that’s what separates him from a lot of people.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for him and I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited that one of us is going to get through that match.”