Pleat tops Gillis for second straight State Am title

The new State Am champ is the same as the old State Am champ.

And for the fans of James Pleat in Nashua and at Nashua Country Club, that’s a great thing.

In an all-Nashua final for the 118th State Amateur title at North Conway Country Club, Pleat defeated former Nashua North and University of Rhode Island standout Brandon Gillis, 5 and 4, gaining momentum on the final three holes of the first 18 and then taking it from there. It’s his second title, his first coming last July at his home course, NCC.

He and his father Phil, who caddied for him throughout match play, now have five State Am titles between them. Pleat’s grandfather, Thomas J. Leonard, Jr., also has won back to back titles.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Pleat told the media. “I never thought this would happen. I feel like it’s hard to do now because we have a lot of really good players in this state.”

But Pleat has proven he is the best of them. The match turned late on the first 18 when he was trailing by a hole but Gillis hit his second shot on the 16 over the green, allowing Pleat to even things up, and then he won the next two holes, taking a 2 up led into the break.

“I felt pretty comfortable, but a 2 up lead is basically like not having a lead at all, especially with a player like Brandon,” Pleat told the media on Saturday. “We were trading a lot of birdies early on in the round on the first 18 and he was up for most of it. And the turnaround on 16, 17, and 18 was huge.”

The pair tied the first three holes of the second 18, and with birdies on the fourth and sixth, he increased his lead to 4 up. It later to 6 up with six holes left, although then Gillis won the 13th thanks to a great tee shot. But Pleat, the Nashua South and Dartmouth College alum, got the clincher on the match’s 32nd hole.

In accepting his trophy, Pleat, 30, thought back to when he first was with his father Phil at North Conway CC back in 2001.He also thanked friends and family, including his parents, who were either following him on the North Conway Country Club Course, or texting him throughout the week.

“The support is really overwhelming,” Pleat said.

Gillis, meanwhile, was in his first Am final, having made it as far as the semis back in 2018 at Hanover CC. In accepting the runnerup trophy he dedicated the week to the late Tyler Almeida, a 17-year-old Nashua North junior who passed away suddenly last November.

“I felt his presence out there, and I think he willed in a few putts out there for me yesterday (in the quarters and semifinals),” said Gillis of Sky Meadow Country Club, who then complimented Pleat. “Great playing out there, James, I knew you were going to be tough to beat.”

And he was, for the second year in a row.

Material from the New Hampshire Golf Association, on its website and also social media, was used in this report.