It has become a yearly trip for many of the NHC/NEPGA Professionals. It has been 44 years since the NHC/NEPGA Championship was held at a different course. With no plans on changing venues, a 50th consecutive year is not far away. Many of us have not been anywhere else and can’t imagine going anywhere else. The staff, members, and course have been great to the professionals and we plan on coming here as long as they will have us. This years event was as great as other years. Many families make the trip with the players and do many different of activities. Some took a train ride, some stayed at Yogi Bear Campground and enjoyed the water park, some traveled to Storyland, and many just got together to enjoy their time away for the facilities.
Hot, humid weather greeted the players Monday morning as they arrived. Temperatures were well into the 80’s when the first group teed off the 1st hole. The course was in great shape and the wind was still at the start of the round. As the day went on the wind did pick up and offered a challenge on some of the holes.
Day one in the Championship Division saw Jason Sedan of Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club came out on fire birdieing the 1st and 2nd hole. He added 3 more birdies on the front nine and turned shooting a 5 under 30. He cooled off on the back, he made bogie on holes 12 and 14, both then came back and birdied 16 and 18 to end the day with a 5 under 66 to take the day 1 lead. Jay Pollini of Ridgewood also shot an under par round on day 1. Jay tallied 4 birdies and 3 bogies on his way to shooting that score and found himself 4 behind the leader after the completion of round 1. Dan Wilkins of Laconia also came in with a 1 under 70. Dan made 5 birdies offset by 2 bogies and 1 double bogie to also find himself 4 shots behind. 2021 Champion, Matt Arvanitis of SNHU, came in with an even par 71 to find himself 5 shots behind and Rico Riciputi of Wentworth by the Sea shot a 1 over 72 to be 6 shots behind.
Day one of the Senior Division saw local favorite Bob McGraw, shot an 1 under 70 to take the lead after the first round. Bob finished the front nine with 7 pars and 2 bogies for a 2 over 37. He got it going on the back nine, he birdied 11, 12, 15, & 16, offset by 1 bogie on the 14th hole to finish is day at that 1 under par 70. Last years Senior Champion Bill Andrews of Portsmouth, shot an 1 over 72 to find himself 2 stokes behind. Bill was steady all day, making 15 pars, 1 birdie, and 2 bogies in his round. Barry Pearson of Keene shot a 4 over 75 to be 5 shots behind the lead.
Day 2 started off as hot and humid as day 1. Sedan did not have the same start as day one though. After a bogie on the 1st hole he hit one out of bounds by a foot on the 2nd hole and made triple bogie. He made bogie on 5, and double on 7 before righting the ship with a birdie on the tough 9th hole to finish the front at 6 over par, 1 over total. Meanwhile playing with Sedan was Jay Pollini. He made 1 bogie and 2 birdies to turn at 1 under and 2 under total. now being in front by 3. Dan Wilkins also playing along side in the group made 1 birdie and 2 bogies to turn at an even par total finding himself in 2nd place. Playing in the group in front of the leaders, Matt Arvanitis had a lackluster 1 over par to turn tied with Sedan. Rico Riciputi also shot a 1 over par front to be in 5th place.
The back started and then it got interesting. Pollini and Sedan both birdied 10 & 11 to start. Pollini was still ahead by 3 at that point. A bad break for Pollini on the 12th hole change things. His drive clipped a tree and shot directly right and ended up out of bounds by a foot. He ended up making triple bogie to come back to 1 under par, meanwhile Sedan made bogie to come back to even par. Meanwhile Arvanitis birdied 11 to come back to even par and Riciputi birdied 11 and 12 to also come back to even par. With 6 holes left 1 stroke separated 4 players. Arvanitis birdied the tough 14th hole to be even with Pollini. Sedan birdied 15 to also be at 1 under with 3 holes to play. Riciputi made bogie on the 15th and now found himself 2 stokes behind. It came down to Arvanitis making birdie on the par 5 17th hole and Pollini and Sedan paring out and ending up tied for 2nd place 1 stroke behind Arvanitis. This is Arvanitis’s third consecutive NHC/NEPGA Championship win. Sedan and Pollini ended up tied for 2nd place 1 behind at 1 under par. Riciputi ended up 4th shooting a 2 day 1 over par. 5th place went to Dan Kish of Atkinson who shot 73 on day one followed that up with an even par round of 72 to end up 5th. Dan Wilkins came in 6th place and was tied by Sam Read of Den Brea who shot 74-71 to come in with a 3 over total. 8th place was a three way tie at plus 5 two day total. Brett Smestad or Rochester, Tom Smith of Atkinson, and Chris Houston of Laconia were those 3 tied.
The Senior Division saw the 2 leaders, McGraw and Andrews, both make 1 birdie and 1 bogie to finish the front nine on day 2 the same as they started their round. Barry Pearson who started the day 5 strokes back finished the front nine at 1 over to end up 6 back with 9 holes to go. Tony Zdunko of Pease was lurking 7 shots behind and was hoping to turn it up and make a run. McGraw began to let others back into the mix with bogies on 12, 13, 14, & 16. Andrews made bogie on 13 & 14 and found himself even with McGraw with two holes left. That’s when McGraw dug in and birdied the 17 & 18, while Andrews made par on both holes. That gave McGraw the NHC/NEPGA Senior Champion title. Andrews ended up 2nd two strokes behind. Tony Zdunko shot even on the back and ended up 3rd at plus 6. Pearson ended up 4th at plus 7. Cory Mansfield of Derryfield and Eric Sandstrum of Keene ended up tied for 5th at plus 8.
Congratulations to Arvanits and McGraw on their wins. Thank you to all the players who participated, hopefully you all had a good time and got to relax a little. Thank you to all the family members, wives, girlfriends, and caddies for supporting your NHC PGA Professionals. We appreciate if very much.
This tournament is is lucky to have Business Partners who help make this the premier NHC/NEPGA event of the year. Davis & Towle Insurance Group, Central Insurance Company, Avidia Bank, The PGA Tour, and New England Golf Cars all contributed to make this event such a huge success.
North Conway Head PGA Professional Kevin Walker and his wife Michelle work very hard to put this event together and insure it runs smoothly. Their staff from top to bottom is first class and make us all feel at home. Superintendent Greg George and his staff had the course in great shape for the event. Greg is retiring at the end of the season, we thank him for all the years of dedication to NCC and wish him well. Last but not least, thank you to all the NCC Members. The moment I started playing in this event 27 years ago you made me feel like family. We appreciate you giving up your course for our Championship each year. Can’t wait to be back August 7 & 8, 2023!