ROCHESTER — Going to the 10th tee Sunday during the final round of the 40th annual Seacoast Amateur Golf Championship, two of the primary contenders playing in the same group were headed in opposite directions.
Brett Wilson was rolling. Harvin Groft was reeling.
Wilson made back-to-back birdies on 7 and 8 while Groft three-putted 5 and 8, leaving Wilson with a four-shot lead over Groft and all the momentum with nine holes left at Rochester Country Club.
"I was trying to hold it together and keep playing solid and try to have a good finish," said Groft, a Somersworth resident who represented The Oaks Golf Links. "I couldn’t control what everybody else was doing but they came back a little bit and let me in it."
And Groft took advantage of the opening. He made birdie at 11 while Wilson was making double bogey for a three-shot swing, then made par on 12 when Wilson had to settle for bogey.
They were tied for the lead after 12 holes Sunday. Groft made an up-and-down par on 13 to take the lead as Wilson bogeyed the hole. Wilson three-putted three greens on the back nine.
"I hit the ball well coming down the stretch," Wilson said. "I made some bad putts. I have confidence in my ball-striking ability. I putted well the first two days. That happens in golf. You’re not going putt well every day. It’s just frustrating that it happened the last nine holes for me."
Groft had no such issues on the greens.
"I made every putt I should have made on the back," he said.
After four bogeys on the front nine Groft had just one on the back side to go along with two birdies, including one on 18 that clinched his first Seacoast Am title. Groft hit his approach to eight feet below the hole.
"When I got up there and saw the putt I’m like, ‘This is going in,’" he said. "It was a beautiful little putt that was going to break half a ball. I just started it right center and it fell right into the center of the cup. It was an easy putt straight up the hill. You couldn’t have asked for a better putt to have on the last hole."
Groft won the tournament by two strokes over Wilson and William Huang, who made a late charge that came up short. At one point Groft and Huang were tied at 1-under for the tournament but Huang bogeyed 18 meaning Groft needed just par to win.
Maintaining his focus down the stretch, despite two competitors breathing down his neck, Groft finished 2-under for the tournament.
"I didn’t try to know (where I stood)," he said. "I had a good idea that I might have been tied for the lead. I also thought there was the potential that I was one back. I didn’t really know. Brett told me in the middle of the fairway (on 18) after I hit my shot that he thought William made bogey on the last hole."
That took some of the pressure off. Groft, who was making his fourth appearance in the Seacoast Am, was confident going into the 54-hole tournament.
"If I play my game I was going to be there," he said. "If I stay patient and hit the balls I’m comfortable with, and get the ball on the green in safe spots and let my putting do the work, I knew I’d have a chance. It was just going to be whether or not I putted well."
Groft feels he’s been improving since his recent return to the game following an eight-year hiatus after graduating from Penn State where he was a member of the varsity golf team, which qualified for nationals his senior season.
"I’m progressing in a way I wanted to progress," he said. "I want to get to this point in my game where it’s getting better. I want to get better and compete at the State Am and play in more USGA events. This is such a great local event with a lot of good players. To come out in front is like, ‘OK, you’re getting better. You’re doing something right.’"