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McKee is Boy's Junior Champion
Author: Wayne Mills
June 25th 2014 -
SALEM, NEW HAMPSHIRE - In a tightly contested match where neither golfer ever held more than a one up advantage, James McKee of Windham Country Club made birdie on the third playoff hole to defeat Brandon Gillis of Nashua and Souhegan Woods Golf Club to win the New Hampshire Golf Association’s (NHGA) Junior Championship at Campbell’s Scottish Highlands Golf Club.

McKee took a one up lead with a birdie on the 460 yard par 4 fourth hole but Gillis evened the match at the sixth when McKee conceded Gillis’s six foot par putt.

The match stayed square through the 15th hole with Gillis having several birdie putts in the six to 12 foot range over those holes but failed to capitalize while McKee was getting up and down and making steady pars. 

Finally Gillis got a break on the 16th when McKee’s par putt from four feet slid by.

One up with two to play in regulation, Gillis promptly gave back the advantage when he missed the green on the 17th from 50 yards. He then left his pitch four feet short. McKee made a three footer for par while Gillis missed to send the match back to all square.
Despite fighting his putter almost all day it saved him at the 18th when he made a twelve foot comebacker .  "That was clutch birdie putt Brandon made to halve the 18th sending the match to a playoff,” said McKee.

Gillis’s putter saved him again at the first playoff hole (the 17th) when he made a four foot par save having conceded McKee’s par.

McKee had it figured early "I realized after the front nine that this was going to be a putting match. We weren't making mistakes off the tee too much and hitting the greens wasn't too much of a problem and when we did we were able to get up and down. It gets down to the putts you have to make.”

After halving the 20th hole (the 18th) with pars they headed back to the 17th one more time. McKee and Gillis both laid back on the 322 yard par 4 with irons and both hit the fairway.

"On 17 I had that approach shot three times today and I finally figured out how to hit it the third time. I know how to hit it and then I need to make the putt to win,” McKee recounted after the round. 

Make the putt he did. Gillis hit the green ten feet right of the flag and McKee’s approach finished six feet above the hole. After Gillis missed it was all up to McKee to finally end it. "I had five or six feet downhill with a subtle break. It was great to see it go in.”  

The win was the first of any kind for the fifteen year old McKee. "A lot of hard work put forward and to finally see that hard work pay off today by being able to execute the shots under pressure was really rewarding,” he said after being presented the winner’s trophy.

McKee is now off to try to qualify for the U.S. Junior Championship on Monday in Trumbull, CT. where there are four spots up for grabs for the 60 entrants in the 36 hole event. McKee thinks the NHGA Junior was a good prelude for that.

"I didn’t have a lot of time this week due to finals at school. I've been trying to build up my endurance to play 36 a day and this tournament was a really good way to build it up,” he said looking ahead. "I played 80 holes over three days this week. That’s a lot of golf. "


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