By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
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."
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)