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Steckowych Honored; Kane Becomes President
Author: Wayne Mills
October 16th 2014 -

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BEDFORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE - The New Hampshire Golf Association (NHGA) held its Sixth Annual Champions Dinner on Thursday evening at Manchester Country Club. A large gathering attended for the annual business meeting and to fete the 2014 Players of the Year and the annual honoree.

Executive Director Matt Schmidt acted as Master of Ceremonies and made an award of appreciation to outgoing President of the Board of Directors Bill Krueger and welcomed incoming President Joe Kane.

Schmidt highlighted serveral 2014 NHGA highlights, including a revamped website and increased social media presence and a forthcoming New Hampshire Golf Magazine. He emphasized the NHGA’s commitment to increased benefits to its membership and to joining with allied organizations to strengthen the game in New Hampshire.

Schmidt also recognized the many efforts of tournament volunteers including Ron Blythe who had the most volunteer days in 2014 and Bill and Claudia McAuliffe who retired after 17 years with the NHGA.

Of particular pride was the success of the first ever net tournament events ever held by the NHGA.  “NHGA events are not just for the elite players anymore. We wanted to provide a tournament experience for our members in a more relaxed and laid back atmosphere” said Schmidt. “We were extremely pleased to see that these events were both fully subscribed in less than three weeks and plan on more of them in 2015.”

The gathering included many past champions going back to the 1960’s who were recognized from the podium.

Joe Leavitt was named Player of the Year for 2014. Leavitt had an unprecedented year in NHGA competitive history by winning the New Hampshire State Amateur, the NHGA Stroke Play, the NHGA Players Championship, and the Tournament of Champions. Leavitt was unable to attend because he was tending to his studies at the University of Rhode Island.

Phil Pleat was named Senior Player of the Year for 2014, a year in which he captured his fourth consecutive NHGA Senior Championship. That win was his 18th NHGA victory, a total unmatched in the 109 year history of the NHGA.

James McKee was named Junior Player of the Year on the strength of his win at the NH Junior Championship at Campbell’s Scottish Highlands.

The Golf and Ski Warehouse Junior Tour saw Players of the Year named in several categories. Hannah Drew won the Girls Birdie Division, Ashley Tewksbury won the Girls Eagle Division, C. J. LaDuc won the Boys Birdie Division, Ethan Emerson won the Boys Eagle B Division, and Garret Olivar was the Boys Eagle A Division player of they year.

The highlight of the evening was the recognition of the 2014 NHGA Honoree, Craig Steckowych.

Steckowych was introduced by old friend and former fellow competitor Peter Harrity. In his speech Harrity listed Steckowych’s many competitive achievements but emphasized his personal traits saying “I hold Craig in the highest personal regard not only in competition but well beyond the golf course.”

In accepting the award Steckowych chose to highlight the many character building aspects of competitive golf. “You are not defined by winning in golf but in losing, something you do much more often than winning,” he said. “Failure molds character and you have to learn to accept it graciously.”

Steckowych described his long and winding road in New Hampshire golf circles. He talked about his start as a bicycle riding kid playing all day at the Manchester muny, Derryfield Country Club, his years away from the game, his rekindled interest in the 1980’s and his humbling experiences in his early competitions and his desire to overcome adversity and finally win.

That kid from the muny rose to win club championships at some of New Hampshire’s finest private clubs including five times at Wentworth-by-the Sea, six times at Cocheco, and seven times at Portsmouth.

He won the Seacoast Amateur three times, the New Hampshire Amateur twice, the New Hampshire Mid-Am twice, and the NHGA Stroke Play once winning the NHGA Player of the Year award three times in the process.

Steckowych was never afraid to test his game outside of New Hampshire highlighted by his win at the New England Amateur in 2001 at the Quechee Club in Vermont where he was only the fifth New Hampshire man to take that title.

He competed in many national events including three United States Golf Association (USGA) Amateurs, three USGA Mid-Amateurs, and five times represented New Hampshire in the USGA State Championships.

His self-described "moment in the sun" occurred in 2009 when he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana. He called his experience “priceless” in getting to the locker room and finding himself, “A schlub from New Hampshire” between boyhood heroes Craig Stadler and Dave Stockton.


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