Notable golfers missing in action

There’s just something missing here at Laconia Country Club.

The course is mag­nificent. The views are beautiful. The food is fabulous.

Still, there’s something missing. More like some­body. Check that, there are a few key figures missing out here at the 113th State Amateur golf tournament.

It’s strange to see only one Pleat on the golf course on any given day at the New Hampshire Golf Association’s premier event. There was Phil Pleat teeing off and sinking putts for a 3-over par 75 Tuesday morning at Laconia Country Club. He made the qualifying cut with a two-day total of 5-over 149. His son, James, was nowhere in sight. ­

Normally the duo splits their tee times up be­tween the morning and afternoon sessions – the early golfer playing caddy later in the day on both days. That routine never got off the first tee on Monday, as James was forced to withdraw from his 8:20 a.m. tee time due to a work commitment he couldn’t reschedule.

So there was Phil, teeing off at 1 p.m. on Monday. He finished that first round with a 2-over par 74.

To think this week could have been without a Pleat altogether is kind of crazy, but it was almost the case.

"To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I was going to play in the event," Phil said Tuesday afternoon. "We decided as a family to come up for the week, and my daughter, Jenny, is here. And it’s good that she’s here. Unfortunately, James couldn’t get the time off early in the week to be here."

It is unfortunate. Stroke play is what James thrives in. The defending Stroke Play champion was the top qualifier in two of the last five State Ams – 2013 at Golf Club of New England in Stratham and 2011 at his home course, Nashua Country Club.

The way things played out Tuesday in Laconia, it appears the field could have used somebody to challenge top qualifier Ryan Tombs, of Bedford, who blew the field away with a 7-under 65 on Day 2 for a two-round total of 9-under 135. His clos­est competitor was Jim Cilley, of Tilton, with a 3-under 141 (70-71).

"To be honest with you, he’d probably be one of the favorites if he was here," Phil Pleat said of his son. "I feel bad he’s not here, and even more knowing this could be my last one, I would have been nice if he was here too."

James Pleat wasn’t the only missing person. There was no Chelso Bar­rett, the 2013 Stroke Play champ and star golfer from Surry who just wrapped up his junior year at Texas Christian University. Atkinson’s Joe Leavitt, who dominated the NHGA circuit over the last four years with a pair of State Am titles (2012, 2014), Stroke Play title (2014) and a Players Invitational title (2014).

For Leavitt, who just graduated from the Uni­versity of Rhode Island, playing this week wasn’t an option after opting for a shot at a professional career.

All three golfers were missed on Monday and Tuesday – on and off the course.

Then there was for­mer NHGA Tournament Director John Jelley. Now living in Florida, he left the organization in capable hands with Greg Howell and Co. The transition has been flaw­less according all those in attendance.

It’s been so flawless that all the focus has been on those golfers in attendance. Legends still on the course, like Phil Pleat continuing to compete at a high level, and the younger players starting to break out – as the next Leavitt, Barrett or Pleat – becoming the crew to watch over the next few years on the golf course.

Somehow there’s always plenty of competi­tion and entertainment at the State Am.

George Scione can be reached at 594-6520, gscione@cabinet.com or @ Telegraph_BigG.