Laconia Country Club’s Chris Houston playing for NH Amateur title


LACONIA — Gilford's Chris Houston will play for the 113th State Amateur Golf Championship trophy Saturday at his home course, the Laconia Country Club. Houston will face off against Matt Paradis in a 36-hole match that will tee-off at 7 a.m.
Houston, 22, played his way into the final with a come-from-behind 2-up win over Ryan Kohler, who plays out of the Hooper Golf Club in Walpole.
Earlier in the day, Houston won his quarterfinal round match against Damon Salo of the Brentwood Golf Club, 4 and 2.
Tilton's Jim Cilley, the 20111 State Amateur champion, also earned a spot in the semi-finals with a 4 and 3 morning win over Jamie Ferullo of the Rochester Country Club. Cilley, who plays out of the Ridgewood Country Club in Moultonborough, did not fare as well in the afternoon, however, falling to Concord Country Club's Paradis, 3 and 2.
Houston fell into a two-down hole against Kohler after the same number of holes. Kohler birdied the first and then Houston three-putted the par 5 second for a bogey.
Houston finally caught up on the driveable par 4 15th hole, chipping within inches from just off the green for a kick-in birdie. The two young men halved the par 3 16th with pars, with Houston's coming on a downhill 10-foot putt.
Both players were just off the green in two on the par 5 17th but Houston was able to get up and down for a birdie and Kohler was not.
Needing to win the 18th to extend the match, Kohler was long with his approach shot and conceded the hole and the match when his mile-long putt ran well past the hole.
"I was two down most of the day. It was a tough match. But knowing how the greens play was a big help in getting to a tie and winning the last two holes," Houston said.
Houston will play golf at the University of Rhode Island, where he will be a graduate student. He has already graduated from Penn State, but has a year of NCAA eligibility left.
Paradis lives in Hooksett and is a member of the Southern New Hampshire University golf team.
Houston has played Laconia Country Club since he was 13 years old and played in the State Amateur "eight or nine times" by his own count. In 2009 he was honored by the New Hampshire Golf Association as Junior Player of the Year. He has also qualified for the U.S. Amateur in 2013.
He says that he was first introduced to golf by his father, Kurt, and grandfather, Everett, at Oak Hill in Meredith.
He enjoyed a stellar high school career at Gilford High School, where he won the individual championship in state tournament play four years in a row and was a member of the Gilford High School golf team which took second place in state play four years in a row.
He says that his high school coach, Jim Swarthout, the pro at Pheasant Ridge Country Club in Gilford, was a big help in improving his golf game and that Todd Rollins, head pro at LCC, "helped me a lot."

07-15 Chris Houston
Chris Houston will play for the New Hampshire Amateur Golf Championship Saturday at Laconia Country Club, where he has been playing golf since he was 13. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Hockey and rock 'n roll stars to set the pace in Speedway Races this weekend

19JUL15 2448 NHMS 03 am DS

Sprint Cut cars roar down the front stretch during a restart at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  (Photo/Alan MacRae)


LOUDON — A little bit of hockey and a little bit of rock 'n roll. That's how two of the biggest races of this weekend will start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Boston Bruins forward Tim Schaller and Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan Lessard will serve as honorary Toyota Camry pace car drivers for the NASCAR XFINITY Series AutoLotto 200 Saturday and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301 Sunday.
"It's been a whirlwind week or so. First signing with the Bruins, which is a dream come true for me, and now I get the chance to drive the pace car before a NASCAR race," said Schaller, who signed with the Bruins on July 1. "I really couldn't be more excited to be a part of this. I'm a huge race fan and have been going to the races in Loudon for the last 10 years. I can't wait to actually get on the track."

"This is such a cool opportunity to be able to lead some of the best race car drivers in the world to the start of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race," said Lessard, who's been with Dave Matthews Band since 1991. "I think the hardest part for me will be pulling off the track and down pit road. I'm going to want to stay out there and race."

Schaller, a 25-year-old native of Merrimack, will lead the XFINITY Series field to green for the AutoLotto 200 at 4 p.m. Saturday. Schaller played his collegiate hockey at Providence College and is entering his fourth season as a professional. He scored his first NHL goal against Bruins All-Star goaltender Tuukka Rask as a member of the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Dec. 21, 2014.

Lessard will make a pit stop from the Dave Matthews Band's summer tour, including two sold out concerts here in New Hampshire, and pace the field for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Schaller and Lessard join an exclusive list of celebrity pace car drivers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, including New England Patriots Julian Edelman and Rob Ninkovich, Olympic triathlete Sarah True, and Boston Bruins legend Brad Park.
Schaller and Lessard will be required to go through a mandatory pace car orientation class on the morning of their respective races. The AutoLotto 200 and New Hampshire 301 can both be seen live on the NBC Sports Network this weekend.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway opened as New Hampshire International Speedway in June of 1990 after nine months of construction following Bob Bahre's purchase of Bryar Motorsports Park in 1989. The reconstruction of the track into a 52,000-seat complex with a 1.058-mile oval made it the largest speedway in New England and subsequent expansions nearly doubled the capacity to close to 100,000.
NASCAR made its debut at the track on July 15, 1990, with the Busch Series Budweiser 300, which was won by Tommy Ellis and featured many drivers from the then Winston Cup Series, including Dale Earnhardt, who placed seventh.
The Busch Series, which was later renamed the Nationwide Series and is now known as the NASCAR XFINITY series, were successful races, enabling the Speedway to gain a spot on the Winston Cup series in 1993.
The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at NHIS, the Slick 300, was held on July 11, 1993, and was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace. It was also the last race ever for Davey Allison, who was fatally injured in a helicopter crash the next day at the Talladega, Alabama, race track.
After the 1996 season, Bob Bahre and Bruton Smith bought the North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina and moved one of the Winston Cup races to NHIS, a September event, with the other race going to one of Smith's tracks.
NHIS has hosted two races a year since that time and has gained a reputation as a tough track for drivers to pass one another, which led to changes in the banking of the track in order to create more side-by-side racing and passing opportunities.
Before the 2008 racing season, Speedway Motorsports, owned by Bruton Smith, purchased the track from the Bahre family for $340 million and changed the name of the track to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It is one of eight tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports.
NASCAR has faced declining popularity nationwide ever since the 2008 recession and has been trying in recent years to woo back fans by making the races more competitive. Changes last year included reduction of horsepower from 850 to 725 and reduction of the rear spoiler from 8 inches to 6 inches.
In-season race package changes are also being made and NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said this week that he is very pleased with the package, which was used last year at Kentucky Speedway. A lower downforce package at Kentucky led to a track-best 22 green-flag passes for the lead and more than double the green-flag passes throughout the field. But history didn't repeat itself this year and last Saturday night's race at Kentucky saw little side-by-side racing, which was blamed in large measure on the recently repaved surface's lack of grooves and a harder tire package from Goodyear to prevent tire blistering.
This Sunday's race at the Speedway is a crucial one in the Race for the Chase, which will see 16 drivers qualify from the first 26 races of the season to be eligible for the Sprint Cup championship, which will be determined in the last 10 races of the season.
Winning Sunday can play a big role in building a driver's momentum toward a championship run. From 2010-14, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keslowski used wins in this race to carry themselves into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, and in 2013, Brian Vickers upset the field for his first win since 2009.
Kyle Busch won last year's race at the Speedway, edging out Brad Keslowski and Kevin Harvick. In September's race, Harvick, who led for 216 of the 300 laps, was leading until the 298th lap when he ran out of fuel and was edged by Matt Kenseth.
Harvick, who races for the Stewart-Haas team, is this year's points leader with 599 is looking for his second win this year. He was the Sprint Cup series winner in 2014. Right on his tail in second place is Keslowski of Team Penske with 595 points and a season high four first-place finishes, including last weekend's Kentucky race when he ran out of gas just after taking the checkered flag and had to have his car pushed into the winner's circle.
Kurt Busch, Harvick's teammate, is in third place with 583 points and one win, followed by Carl Edwards of the Joe Gibbs team with 566 points and two wins.
Joey Logano of Team Penske is fifth with 533 points and one win and Kyle Busch of the Joe Gibbs team is sixth with 521pints and three wins.
Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who won both of the 2003 races at NHMS, is in 9th place with 484 points and two wins.

19JUL15 2405 NHMS 01 am DS

Fans pack the stands at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  (Photo/Alan MacRae)

Buying a boat – which is for you?

DSC 0246 DS

The helm of a modern fountain, Kevin Keenan explained, is entirely electronic and can even drive itself with information from the GPS system. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)


LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE — So, you've decided the time is right to buy a boat – or maybe add a boat to your collection. The question then becomes: What kind of boat is right for you and your family? Marinas around Lake Winnipesaukee have a wide variety of boats for sale, and at an equally broad range of prices.

Anyone who has boated on Winnipesaukee – or any other popular lake in the country, for that matter – has likely noticed a surge in pontoon boat popularity. At Channel Marine, general manager Jason St. Gelais said that pontoon boats had already commanded the lion's share of his marina's business at the start of the season, and that recent year-to-date national industry statistics show pontoon boats increasing 12.7 percent over last year's already impressive figures.

"Pontoon boats have definitely taken off," St. Gelais said. Propelling their ascent are technology and design innovations, such as the use of a third pontoon for a "tri-toon" platform, which make for a more stable ride and allow the use of more powerful outboard engines. The pontoon boat's flat, open floor plan allows for a range of customization, and manufacturers have responded with designs to suit diverse activities.

"They handle just as well as a traditional bowrider, if not better. You can do all the same things you would do – waterski, tubing – and you've got a lot more room," said St. Gelais.

Price is also a selling point. A customer looking for a boat for sunset cruises and relaxed touring would be happy with a Crest 200L, said St. Gelais, which starts a little more than $20,000. For a more powerful tri-toon, which can pull a waterskier or tuber, the price increases to $40,000 and up.

St. Gelais said the pontoon boat of today are attracting an increasingly diverse collection of boat buyer.

"It appeals to everybody and everyone, even the people that never thought they would ever buy a pontoon boat. I hear it all the time, 'I never thought I'd buy a pontoon boat,' and people are buying. Pontoon boating is taking over Winnipesaukee."

Manufacturers of conventional fiberglass boats aren't yielding the battle yet, though. Bill Irwin, at Irwin Marine, said he's particularly impressed by Sea Ray's 350 XLS, a 34-and-a-half-foot-long bowrider with teak floors, advanced technology such as an all-digital touchscreen dash with built-in GPS, and comfort and convenience features including seating for 18, a sink and grill, a significantly quieter ride, a fixed sun shade and an extended swim platform.

"It's just gorgeous," said Irwin adding that the model would appeal to "somebody that would like to entertain a lot of people, also great for a couple of people going out on the lake."

Fay's Boat Yard in Gilford sells more powerboats than anything else, but it remains known as the place to go for sailboats.

"Sailboats – we're really the only people that do it. And we're experts, high-end experts," said Fay's sales manager Sean Mulligan. Fay's stocks small dinghies, Laser sailboats, catamarans and cruising yachts, said Mulligan. For the serious sailor, though, Mulligan has a line of J/boats.

Many J/boats have below-deck accommodations, said Mulligan, "But that's not what these are about. These are performance sailboats."

"Everything about them, the way the sail plan is, the deck rigging, and the sails (material), they go faster with less wind," Mulligan said. With a performance boat, a sailor can change the shape of the sail to better harness the natural energy of the wind.

"Into the wind, you can be going upwards of seven, eight or nine knots," said Mulligan. "Downwind, you can be going 18 knots. It gets up onto a plane. These boats are rigged up to be able to do that, they have that potential."

The price tag for such a boat starts at around $200,000, though even at that cost Mulligan said he was able to ship three of them to local customers last month. The boats appeal to someone who knows how to sail and wants to advance their skill, perhaps even sail competitively.

"It's going to be an experienced sailor looking for a nice performance sailboat, something they're not going to grow out of in any short time. You can keep upping your game and not catch up to the boat," he said.

If none of the above boats appeal to you, then perhaps you should visit Kevin Keenan a Paugus Bay Marina, where he has been selling Formula boats for the past nine years. Although Formula has a long tradition of selling high-performance boats, Keenan said that's no longer indicative of the company's current product.

"Formula started out as a performance boat in the '70s and '80s. That is an image we are starting to shed," Keenan said. Though the brand is moving away from the "cigarette" style off-shore racing boat design, Keenan said Formula is rolling the technology and attention to detail used in those boats into its line of high-end bowriders.

The company's designs are evolving as its client base matures, Keenan has seen. Thirty years ago, Formula customers were younger, and splurged on a thrilling, high-performance machine. Now, those customers are interested in something that they can use to take their children or grandchildren out for a day of cruising, but "They still want a performance feel."

"We're very blessed to have what I think is the best boat lineup on the lake," said Keenan, and the price points reflect Keenan's estimation of excellence.

A recently sold 37-foot power cruiser went for around $400,000, he said. For that figure, the customer got a boat fitted with a pair of big-block V-8 engines, a cabin with a bed, galley and two seating areas. The helm features controls that are entirely electronic.

"This is a fly-by-wire boat," said Keenan. While the throttle levers and steering wheels on previous generations were attached to cables and pulleys that moved throttle plates and propellers. In the Formula, the controls are purely electronic, and with the optional Axius system, the boat will read GPS signals and manipulate each engine independently. The system can automatically navigate a series of waypoints, or can keep a boat in a fixed location and direction regardless of wind or water current.

The Axius option adds $25,000 to the purchase price, but Keenan said that nearly every customer requests it.

"People love gadgets," he said. "The Formula buyer, he wants all the best."

Formula buyers are also likely to spend tens of thousands for a custom paint job, or bespoke interior upholstery, so that they know that theirs is unlike any other boat on the lake.

The Formula owners also tend to be meticulous with maintenance. That, combined with brand recognition and the fact that Winnipesaukee boats spend their lives away from saltwater, means that traded in Formulas command a premium at Paugus Bay Marina.

"These boats, even 10 or 12 years old, we put them online, we get five or six hits in the first hour," Keenan said. Even a 30-year-old boat commands $8,000 on the used market. And it will sell, to someone who appreciates the distinction that comes with the brand. Keenan said, "This is not a cookie-cutter boat."

DSC 0243 DS