Bremerton, Wash. – Visit Bretwood Golf Course in Keene, N.H., and shout the name Barrett and several heads will probably turn.
It could be Matt Barrett, the head professional, or maybe Tom Barrett, the superintendent. It could also be the 16-year-old kid whacking mammoth drives at the driving range who goes by Chelso Barrett.
Bretwood is a lot like Cheers. It’s a place where everybody knows the Barretts. Given the family influence at the course, it’s surprising it’s not called Barrett Golf Club.
Hugh Barrett, Chelso’s dad and the 1980 New Hampshire Amateur champion, designed nine of the 36 holes at the highly popular public facility in southwestern New Hampshire that regularly hosts sectional qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
Chelso’s grandfather, Toby Barrett, was the original superintendent and owner. His maternal grandfather, Chelso Piermattei, was a multiple club champion at Bretwood and nearby Keene Country Club. His aunt, Ali Barrett, played collegiately at Western Kentucky and was one of the top female golfers in the state.
Even the concession stand at Bretwood is manned by a family member.
When you say Barrett, you say green grass and golf, said Pete Blaisdell, a longtime family friend who serves on the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship Committee. Blaisdell caddied for Hugh when he qualified for the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
And young Chelso is following right along in the family footsteps. The talented high school junior posted rounds of 69-74 on Gold Mountain Golf Club’s Olympic Course at the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur – in his third USGA championship appearance – to easily advance into Wednesday’s first round of match play. He'll play Andrew Bonner of Ripon, Calif., at 11:30 a.m. PDT.
We’ve got some good golfers, said Chelso Barrett of the family pedigree. My uncle is the head pro … and my other uncle is the greenkeeper. My dad was a good player.
While the golf season in New Hampshire isn’t as long as it might be in warmer locales such as Florida or California, Chelso spends literally every day at Bretwood. He once shot 64 on the South Course. Last year, he qualified for his first USGA event, the Amateur Public Links, by posting a two-round total of 140 to share medalist honors.
A month later, he was competing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur, where he survived the match-play cut but had to play the defending champion, Jordan Spieth, in the first round. Spieth made six birdies in posting a 7-and-5 victory.
He killed me, said Barrett. It was intimidating for me then. I was nervous. He just whipped me.
It definitely gave me more confidence. You just learn from losing to him. I liked actually playing against him because it’s nice seeing how good you are against the best.
Barrett went back to New Hampshire knowing his game needed to get more consistent. He also spent the winter getting his body stronger by lifting weights. His dad also built a heated covered shed on the Bretwood driving range, which allowed Chelso to hit balls into the snow-covered terrain.
We just have a huge supply [of golf balls], said Chelso when asked if he had to retrieve them.
Spring brought warmer temperatures, along with the evidence of Chelso’s practice habits littered on the range. But the extra work has paid dividends on the golf course in 2011. Chelso nearly advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying, losing a playoff at his local qualifier for one of the available spots.
He was the medalist at his Junior Amateur qualifier at Allendale C.C. in North Dartmouth, Mass., shooting 144.
When Chelso arrived in the Pacific Northwest, it didn’t take him long to adjust. The cool temperatures are quite similar to what he experiences in New Hampshire. His first-round 69 on the 7,133-yard, par-72 John Harbottle III layout just fueled his confidence.
His 36-hole total of 1-under 143 also helped him avoid facing Spieth in the first round. Still, Chelso feels much differently in 2011 than he did a year ago at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, Mich.
I realized to get to the next level you have to work your tail off, said Barrett, whose older brother, Brett, plays baseball at the University of Southern Maine. Last year I was little more inconsistent.
Barrett is hoping to use this week’s performance as a springboard to a college golf scholarship. But don’t look for him to stick around New England.
I want to get away, he said. I don’t want to be in the Northeast at all.
Which would mean one less Barrett working at Bretwood.
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.