LACONIA — Members at the Laconia Country Club think they've got one of the best golf courses in the state. Now they have some evidence to back up that claim, as the New Hampshire Golf Association has selected Laconia as the site for the 113th State Amateur Championship, which will be held July 11 to 16.
"It is the most prestigious amateur event in New Hampshire – we're thrilled to have it here," said Mike Somma, the club's general manager. "It validates that this is one of the best courses in New Hampshire. It's a nice feather in our cap. We're excited about it."
Somma, a New Jersey native, comes to Laconia with 30 years of resort experience, the last 15 of which were at Owl's Nest Resort & Golf Club in Thornton. He's been at Laconia Country Club since last July. Somma is among the recent changes at the private golf club. Other changes include upgraded maintenance equipment and a half-million-dollar renovation to the clubhouse, completed in the winter of 2014-2015.
Those improvements have shown results. Membership had been steady at around 430 for several years, with about 20 to 25 new members replacing outgoing members annually. To tempt new members, the club has begun offering a "trial membership," which gives the member a year to try out the club before paying the initiation fee. That, coupled with the facility's improvements, has provoked stronger interest in the club.
"I'm getting calls every day," he said. Somma said the maximum membership is 445, and he thinks the club will have to consider establishing a waiting list this season.
"It's a great golf course, a beautiful tract," he said, praising the work of course superintendent Tom DiFonzo. "He does a superb job of keeping this course in great shape." DiFonzo and his crew protected the course over the winter, and now, the fairways are green and the greens are verdant and freshly mowed. The course opened for the season on Friday, after a brief frost delay in the morning.
Hosting the state championship means that the club's members won't have access to their own course. Well, nearly all of them won't, that is. Some of the members will be able to qualify for the championship by playing at other qualifying events, while one spot at the championship is reserved for the hosting course. Somma said the Country Club will hold a 36-hole tournament on May 28 for its members, the winner will earn the chance return to the course in July to play alongside the best amateurs in the state.
Tom McCoy, vice president of the club's board, was one of the golfers who took to the course at the first opportunity on Friday. He said his son has qualified for the amateur championship for the past two years, and he his hoping to qualify so that the two of them can compete together. Either way, he's happy for his club to be hosting the event this year.
"Of course, it means a lot to us. We're proud that the state (golf association) chose our course and our club. We're glad to be able to showcase it to the best golfers in the state."