Jelley stepping down as NHGA director

The New Hampshire Golf Association is about to get a major facelift.

NHGA Tournament Director John Jelley, who has been an active member of the golf community nationally and locally for 30 years – 25 of those in New Hampshire and 10 in his current role – is resigning his post at the conclusion of this season. The 57-year-old golf rules aficionado, who was born and raised in Concord but currently resides in New Durham, and his wife, Debby, are planning a move to Florida this fall to be closer to her three daughters and two grandchildren.

It’s a move that caught Granite State golfers by surprise.

Nashua’s Phil Pleat, an 18-time NHGA champion who is looking to add another title to that record number Aug. 25-26 in the Senior Championship at Kingswood Golf Club in Wolfeboro, is happy for a fellow golf junky that he’s known for 20-plus years.

"He’s done a great job as tournament director. He’ll definitely be missed," Pleat said. "Our whole family is going to miss him. James and Jenny knew him from when they were both kids participating in the junior events years ago. Obviously, James and I see him every tournament we play in now at the higher level.

"There’s years of service and wisdom he’s offered that have helped golfers statewide learn the game. It’s a big loss for us as players, and probably a bigger loss for the NHGA."

That’s a fact not lost on the NHGA board.

"John’s announcement was a shock to all of us, but we are fully supportive of his desire to be closer to his family," NHGA Executive Director Matt Schmidt said in a statement released by the NHGA. "John has been a constant ambassador to the NHGA and his devotion and loyalty have been unmatched over the years. We’ll miss not only his tournament expertise, but his love of the game and strong desire to see golf flourish in the Granite State."

Flourish it has.

Jelley, who has conducted more than 60 major championships and worked over 600 tournament days, has helped make the NHGA’s championship program into one of the most respected state associations nationwide.

His professional resume is impressive.

A member of the PGA since 1989, Jelley owns the highest classification a member can achieve as a PGA Master Professional – one of only two Master Professionals in New Hampshire.

Jelley, who has officiated everything from the PGA Championship down to nine-hole junior tournaments, isn’t giving up on the game. He’s hoping to catch on with another job in the game when he gets to Florida.

"Honestly, I’m just going down there and winging it," said Jelley, who in 2013 received the New Hampshire PGA Chapter’s Bill Strausbaugh Award for personally displaying outstanding integrity, character, and leadership through a commitment to mentoring and making significant impacts on the careers of PGA Professionals. "I might like to go back and work at a course, and start playing more golf. I haven’t played much in the last 10 years. I think I might have a few more rounds in me."

One of the biggest contributions he’s made to Granite State golfers of every age and gender is his knowledge of the rule book front to back and back to front.

He’s taught numerous rules clinics to PGA professionals and aspiring amateurs alike – locally running the NHGA’s annual spring clinics – and has scored 92 percent or higher on the PGA/USGA Rules of Golf Test 11 times.

That’s knowledge that Hudson’s Chris Rivard, a former pro who regained his amateur status a few years ago to return to the NHGA tournament scene, trusts immensely.

"He’s been doing it for a long time," said Rivard, who due to elbow tendinitis has sat out the 2015 NHGA season. "John held a really great position with the PGA. He left his home in New Hampshire to be a tourney director and rules official with the pro tour. He’s had his hand in a few PGA championship events. He decided to bring his talent and smarts back to his home state and to the NHGA, and it’s been a rewarding experience for all of us.

"I respect John. He’s a rules expert. I think as a guy who’s played professional golf, I have a firm grasp on the rules. But if there’s ever any question, if I’ve ever had any issues – even if I didn’t agree with a decision – I would and will always defer to John. He knows the rules inside and out. This is an unfortunate loss for the NHGA and all of us out there competing."

NHGA Director of Member Services and Director of Junior Golf Greg Howell recalls his first season as a PJ Boatwright Intern working for Jelley.

"It was apparent from the first day I met him that he has an immense passion for the game of golf," Howell said in a statement released by the NHGA. "He is incredibly knowledgeable and it didn’t take long to start learning from him. He has always been willing to take the time to educate anybody who asks for help, and he is one of the main reasons I chose a career in golf administration. His presence at tournaments will be missed incredibly."

Jelley’s last Championship as tournament director is a fitting one, as he runs the Mid-Amateur at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown – where he was the head professional from 1998-2000. Prior to Stonebridge Jelley worked for the PGA of America as a tournament administrator for six years.

He can go on for hours talking about his PGA days, dealing with the likes of Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus. However, some of his better days at a golf course involved names such as Phil

Pleat, Dan Arvanitis, Bob Mielcarz and Craig Steckowych.

"I don’t know that it’s really sunk in that I’m leaving," Jelley said. "Intellectually, it’s there, I know the decision has been made. Emotionally, it won’t hit me until I’m going down the highway."

NH Junior Circuit

– Windham’s James McKee was the top New Hampshire finisher, tying for ninth individually, as the Granite State team finished fifth at the New England Junior Amateur, Aug. 16-18 at Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Rhode Island won the team title, followed by Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Patrick Welch, of Rhode Island, won the individual title with a three-round 2-under par score of 211. McKee tied for ninth with a plus-8 221. His teammates included Nashua’s Tommy Ethier, Seacoast golfers Eric Evans and Nick Hampoian, western New Hampshire’s Phin Choukas and Keeton Foster, and Concord’s Doug Champagne.

– Bedford 16-year-old Sean McGadden was named 2015 New England PGA Junior Player of the Year (Boys 16-18).

The Bedford High School golfer won the award for the second time, also winning it in 2010, after competing in more than 20 tournaments on the 2015 NEPGA Junior Tour.

NHGA State Am sites set thru 2018

The premier amateur golf championship in the state of New Hampshire now has a site for the next four years.

Bretwood Golf Course in Surry is the most recent to lock in a tournament. Bretwood will host the 114th New Hampshire Amateur Championship July 10-15, 2017.

Before going to Bretwood in 2017 the event will be at Laconia Country Club in 2016, and it will be followed by Abenaqui Country Club and Portsmouth Country Club in 2018 and 2019 respectively.