Martel edges Salo, Tombs for Stroke Play title

CONCORD – Michael Martel and Damon Salo commuted together to Beaver Meadow Golf Course on Wednesday, Aug. 10, for the final two rounds of the NHGA Stroke Play Championship.

They had plenty to talk about on the ride home.

Salo fired a 65 in the morning, Martel answered with a 65 in the afternoon and the pair of 23-year-olds from New Ipswich found themselves tied atop the leaderboard after 72 holes.

Martel, a Nashua Country Club member, carded a par on each of three playoff holes and the last one clinched a trip home with bragging rights – and a shiny new trophy – as the 2016 NHGA Stroke Play Champion.

Martel finished 70-75-72-65-282 for the tournament. Salo carded a 79-67-65-71-282. Bedford’s Ryan Tombs, of Manchester Country Club, was third at 5-under. Jim Cilley (Ridgewood CC) and Damon’s older brother Cameron Salo (Bretwood Golf Club) rounded out the top five at 2-under.

Martel started the day with an even-par 72 and entered the final 18 holes with a six-shot deficit, but drained five birdies on the front nine and put himself in contention.

"I saw the (leaderboard after 15) and I was just thinking, ‘I’ve got to birdie the last three to have a chance,’?" said Martel, who also won the 2013 State Am. "I have to go for it. I’m not playing for third."

Martel birdied 16 and 17 – sinking 15-foot putts on each – and buried a 4-foot birdie to force a playoff with Salo (Bretwood GC), who was already in the clubhouse at 6-under.

After both golfers converted par on the first two extra holes, Martel started the third wide left off the tee and hit the next into a bunker. Meanwhile, Salo’s drive was near perfect, but his second shot sailed left and nestled next to a tree. His third was just short of the green, but he left a birdie chip far short and misfired on the par putt.

From the bunker, Martel put it on and lagged a lengthy putt near the hole to set up a 1-footer to save par and take home the title.

"It was an up-and-down day, for sure," said Martel, who noted Salo is one of his best friends.

Salo had no hard feelings about coming up short.

"He knows how to hit the ball well. He kept it in play and made the putts when he had to do it, so hat’s off to him," said Salo, who lamented missing a putt on 18 that could have locked up the tourney in regulation. However, he took consolation in his third-round 65.

"That’s my new tournament low, so I’m going to be celebrating that," Salo said. "I’m driving back with Mikey, so we’re going to be talking about our rounds. There was nothing to complain about. We’re going to enjoy the rest of the night."