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Top juniors looking forward to a tough challenge at State Am

Christmas 6—GOFFSTOWN — Ryan Rankins knows what it takes to shoot a good score at Manchester Country Club, and next week he’ll have a chance to put his knowledge to the test.

Rankins, a 2023 Bedford High School graduate, is among those entered in next week’s New Hampshire Golf Association Amateur Championship — the State Am — at Manchester CC. Rankins is a member at Manchester. He also played on the Bedford High School golf team, which uses Manchester as its home course.

“You definitely have to keep it in the fairway,” Rankins said Thursday during the first round of the NHGA Junior Stroke Play Championship, a two-day event at Stonebridge CC. “They’ve grown out of the rough. Outside the rough and the woods, the fescue is going to be super thick.

“When you get in the rough, you have to take your medicine sometimes and lay up just short of the green. With how fast the greens are and how thick the rough is, it can be tough.”

Rankins, who helped Bedford win the NHIAA Division I championship in 2022, will be playing in the State Am for the first time. He failed to qualify by one shot last year.

The State Am field will be trimmed to the top 64 scores Tuesday, after the second day of stroke play. Those 64 players will advance to the match-play portion of the tournament.

Rankins’ goal next week?

“Just make it to match play,” he said. “Whatever it takes. If I make it on the number, it doesn’t matter. I’m just trying to make it to match play.

“I worked really hard trying to get it because I know it’s going to be fun playing on my home course.”

Rankins is one of five golfers in the Junior Stroke Play Championship who is also entered in the State Am. That group includes Sam Maurice (Auburn), Nick Nowak (Amherst), Gavin Richardson (Concord) and Andrew Suprenant (Boscawen).

Those five will be among those eligible to win the Ty Abate Award, which is presented annually by the Union Leader to the golfer 19 and under who posts the lowest score during the State Am’s two rounds of stroke play. Abate was a Union Leader sports writer best known for his golf coverage.

Suprenant was the only golfer to shoot under par in the Junior Stroke Play Championship’s first round. He fired a 3-under-par 69 Thursday, and will carry a four-shot lead into today’s final round. Maurice finished with a 73 Thursday and is tied for second.

Maurice, who is entering his senior year at Trinity High School, will also be playing in the State Am for the first time.

“Last year, I was away during the (State Am) and two years ago I didn’t think I was ready,” Maurice said. “It’ll be fun to see how my game stacks up against the other players. I really can’t have expectations in tournaments like these because the players are so good, but I’ll probably put a little pressure on myself. That’s probably not a good thing.”

Although he plays most of his golf at Derryfield CC and Hoodkroft CC, Maurice said he is very familiar with the Manchester layout.

“I play there with my buddies quite often,” he said. “It’ll be fun to see it in tournament condition.”

Like Rankins, Maurice said the key to scoring well at Manchester starts with finding the fairway.

“The rough is going to be thick,” he said. “The greens are going to be fast, a lot of slope. It’s going to be a tough course, that’s for sure.”

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