Nowak falls in State Am Round of 16

LACONIA – Amherst’s Brian Nowak and Hud­son’s Ryan Friel are morn­ing people. Well, that’s the assumption one might make after Thursday’s two rounds of play at the 113th State Amateur golf cham­pionship last week.

Nowak, an Amherst Country Club member, and Friel, a member at The Overlook Golf Club in Hollis, won their Round of 32 matches early in the day before losing their Round of 16 matches in the afternoon.

Laconia Country Club’s Chris Houston, who oust­ed Nowak in the Round of 16, went on to win the tournament with a 4 and 3 victory over Matt Paradis of Concord Country Club in the 36-hole champion­ship match on Saturday.

Nowak’s day began at 7:40 a.m. against Craig Steckowych, a Portsmouth Country Club member and New Hampshire Golf Association legend. No. 13 Nowak, who failed to qualify for match play in his previous two attempts to conquer the State Am in 2014 and ’15, pulled out a 3 and 2 win over 20th-seeded Steckowych.

It was a big win for the 44-year-old Philadelphia native.

"No question that win meant a lot," Nowak said of beating the two-time State Am champion (1990, ’98). "We have a lot of mu­tual friends, so I know who he is and what he’s accomplished on the golf course.

"We actually played each other, for the first time, a couple weeks ago at Portsmouth Country Club. He’s a great guy and golfer. Knowing his rep, I didn’t expect the out­come, I just wanted to give him a good game."

He did more than give Steckowych a good game. He slew a Granite State golfing giant.

"I putted exceptionally poorly today," Steckowych "and that was pretty true for my first two rounds as well. I hit a cousaid about the Round of 32 match, ple bad shots today, and I putted very poorly. A combination of doing that and playing a guy who’s making a few birdies on you, you’re just not going to win. That’s how it turned out." ­

Unfortunately for Nowak, his morning victory would be the high­light of this year’s event. The short break in play between Rounds of 32 and 16 took him off his game.

He fell 4 and 3 in his afternoon match to host-course favorite Hous­ton, the fourth seed.

"I was pretty focused and aggres­sive in the morning," Nowak said. "I came out flat and wasn’t as sharp in the afternoon to be as aggressive as I was earlier.

"Chris was steady all day. I was off a little and it proved costly."

Friel’s day began at 8:12 a.m. against Loudon Country Club mem­ber Travis Landry. Friel, the 50th seed, was already coming off his Round of 64 upset over No. 15 Matt Burroughs, of Manchester, when he locked up a 2 and 1 victory over Landry in the Round of 32.

Like Nowak, the transition from morning to afternoon didn’t go as planned.

Friel didn’t stray too far from his strong play in the Round of 32, but a couple of misfires were all second-seeded Jim Cilley, of Til­ton and a member of Moultonbor­ough’s Ridgewood Country Club, needed to secure a 3 and 2 win in the Round of 16.

"I didn’t play quite as well in the afternoon, Friel said of his match with Cilley. "It was pretty tight throughout. I was 1-up through nine."

That’s when things got away from Friel.

Cilley birdied 10 and 11. The duo parred 12. Then Friel hit the woods off the 13th tee allowing Cilley to go 3-up.

They parred 14, before Friel got too aggressive on the 15th hole.

"The way the pin was set up to­day, you have to go up the left side on the 15th," Friel said. "I went too far left into the woods. The ball kicked off a tree and went further to the left. It was a gift hole.

"Jim was consistent all match. I didn’t have any room to make those couple of mistakes. Not against a player like Jim."