One for the ages: Zimmerman, 19, holds off Mielcarz, 72, at State Am

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Jul. 14—RYE — While it was admittedly not his best round of golf, Bryce Zimmerman said he will always remember his Round-of-64 match at the 119th New Hampshire Amateur Championship on Wednesday at Abenaqui Country Club.

The 19-year-old Nashua resident and Nashua CC member advanced to today's Round of 32 with a 1-up victory over nine-time State Am champion Bob Mielcarz.

Mielcarz, 72, advanced to the Round of 64 by making birdie on the par-4, 15th hole in Wednesday morning's seven-player playoff round for the final four match-play spots. It was his first playoff in his more than 40 years playing in the State Am.

Mielcarz, a Concord CC member and Concord resident, won the State Am the last time the tournament was held at Abenaqui, in 1993.

Zimmerman said he learned about Mielcarz' storied New Hampshire golf career when Mielcarz returned to the State Am scene in 2015, when the tournament was held at Mt. Washington Resort Golf Club. Zimmerman, a Nashua North graduate and two-time NHIAA Division I individual champion, caddied for his dad, Rob, at the State Am that year.

"I kind of started to hear who he was and that's when I kind of became familiar with some of the New Hampshire golf history and what he's accomplished at State Ams," Zimmerman said of Mielcarz, "and he's been making runs the past couple years, too. ... He's still got it. I would never count him out. He's a grinder."

Mielcarz, who has reached match play at the State Am each of the past three summers, knotted the score after Zimmerman bogeyed the 16th hole.

Zimmerman, who will soon start his sophomore season at the University of Hartford, said his nerves were flowing entering the 18th hole. The 17th and 18th hole tee shots are his least favorite at Abenaqui.

After Mielcarz' second shot on No. 18 went into the water hazard to the left of the fairway, Zimmerman said he played it safe the rest of the match to secure the win.

"I knew Bob was going to give me a run for my money," Zimmerman said. "Both of us together really didn't play great golf but he turned it on on the back nine and I knew he would."

Co-medalists Rob Henley (Lake Sunapee CC) and Ryan Kohler (Hooper GC) also reached the Round of 32.

Henley, who set Abenaqui's amateur course record with a 7-under 65 in the opening round of stroke play on Monday, defeated Nashua CC's Noah Leclair, 3 and 2, to advance.

Kohler, 38, beat 16-year-old Reese Woodbury (North Conway CC), 4 and 3.

Kohler, a Chesterfield resident, had never played Abenaqui before a practice round last Sunday but said he has learned over the tournament that the course is built around the greens. "I've just been trying to get more comfortable with lines and speed — they're very fast and then they're very hard to read," he said.

Nashua CC's James Pleat still has the chance to become the first golfer to win the State Am three straight times since Mielcarz (1977-79). The two-time defending champion from Nashua advanced to the Round of 32 with a 4-and-3 victory over Hoodkroft CC member Jeremy Burke.

Pleat said he struggled putting on Wednesday but settled down by hitting some good wedge and approach shots as he got into the round. Pleat, 31, won the sixth and seventh holes and had a 3-up lead at the turn.

While it has been difficult to do, Pleat said he has tried not to think about the weight that comes with being the defending champion during the tournament.

"Yeah, there's a little bit of pressure, for sure, just having had success the past couple years," Pleat said, "but at the end of the day it's just about focusing on your game every shot and not worrying about the external stuff."

Fellow former State Am champions Craig Steckowych (Portsmouth CC), Jim Cilley (Laconia CC), Matt Burroughs (Concord CC), Mark Stevens (Beaver Meadow GC) and John DeVito (Passaconaway CC) also advanced to the Round of 32.

Steckowych, 63, was 1-up or tied with Beaver Meadow GC's Gavin Richardson, 15, in their Round-of-64 match before he birdied the 15th hole to take a 2-up lead. Steckowych won, 3 and 1.

"You play this many days in a row, you'd like to think your game gets a little bit better, a little bit sharper and that's what I'm going to hope for as I go along," Steckowych said.

Round of 64 match play scores

Rob Henley (Lake Sunapee CC) def. Noah Leclair (Nashua CC), 3 and 2; Will Ducharme (Golf Club of New England) def. Josiah Hakala (Beaver Meadow GC), 2 and 1; Jon Dyer (Nashua CC) def. Griffin Barbaro, 7 and 6; Jim Cilley (Laconia CC) def. Valentino Cheek (Pease GC), 3 and 1; Mark Stevens (Beaver Meadow GC) def. Chris MacMillan, 3 and 2; Tony Fournier (Portsmouth CC) def. Kory Ferullo (Rochester CC), 6 and 5; Colin McCaigue (Amherst CC) def. Joshua Pabst (Canterbury Woods CC), 3 and 1; Jamie Ferullo (Rochester CC) def. Jeffrey Barnes (Pease GC), 5 and 4; Bryce Zimmerman (Nashua CC) def. Bob Mielcarz (Concord CC), 1-up; Brett Wilson (Golf Club of New England) def. DJ Petropulos (Nashua CC), 3 and 2; Patrick Hesseltine (Laconia CC) def. Tyler Lizotte (Sky Meadow CC), 5 and 4; Aiden Azevedo (Atkinson Resort and CC), def. Kevin Strong (Rochester CC), 3 and 2; Joseph Bowker (Pembroke Pines CC) def. Peter Keilty (Portsmouth CC), 2 and 1; John DeVito (Passaconaway CC) def. Phil Pleat (Nashua CC), 2 and 1; Jack Kelley (Sky Meadow CC) def. Sam Natti (Maplewood CC), 2 and 1; James Kinnunen (Shattuck GC) def. Brian Adams (Youth on Course), 3 and 2; Ryan Kohler (Hooper GC) def. Reese Woodbury (North Conway CC), 4 and 3; Michael Fiacco (Golf Club of New England) def. Ryan Scollins (Bald Peak Colony Club), 1-up; Harvin Groft (Candia Oaks) def. Will McLaughlin (Concord CC), 1-up; Jake Nutter (Manchester CC) def. Ryan Blossom (Lake Sunapee CC), 2 and 1; Fletcher Sokul (Abenaqui CC) def. Spenser Stevens (Maplewood CC), 20 holes; Derek Dinwoodie (Farmington CC) def. Garrett Sturges (Stonebridge CC), 1-up; Cameron Salo (Shattuck GC) def. Keith Stone (Pease GC), 3 and 2; Evan Desjardins (Atkinson Resort and CC) def. Matthew Moore (Canterbury Woods CC), 5 and 3; Craig Steckowych (Portsmouth CC) def. Gavin Richardson (Beaver Meadow GC), 3 and 1; Jack Meehan (Carter CC) def. Nick Fairweather, 3 and 2; Mathew Gover (Atkinson Resort and CC) def. Jack Castricone (Canterbury Woods CC), 4 and 3; Nathaniel Kabogoh (Windham CC), def. Jack Brown (Nashua CC), 1-up; Brandon Gillis (Sky Meadow CC) def. Thomas Hickey (Ridgewood CC), 3 and 2; Matt Burroughs (Concord CC) def. Jack Pepin (Atkinson Resort and CC), 3 and 1; James Pleat (Nashua CC) def. Jeremy Burke (Hoodkroft CC), 4 and 3;

ahall@unionleader.com