Golf is a cruel, cruel game.
Just ask Pinkerton Academy’s Julianna Megan.
As a freshman in 2019, Megan wilted down the stretch, unable to hold onto her lead in the NHIAA girls open championship. She settled for a third-place tie.
It was almost deja vu a week and a half ago. Now a sophomore, Megan took the lead and then had some struggles. That cruel game was going to do it again.
Not so fast. This is one tough Astro.
Megan (rhymes with BEE-fin) regained her bearings and played championship golf to secure the title with a 7-over 78 (40-38) at Campbell’s Scottish Highlands in Salem. She defeated runner-up June Doerr, a freshman at Winnacunnet, by two strokes.
Salem senior Katherine Chartrain was 13th (90) and Pinkerton junior Lydia Tufts was 19th (95) in the 29-golfer field.
“I led going into 17 and it made me think of last year, when I choked,” said Megan. “But after a pair of bogies (on 13 and 14 this year) I parred the last four holes. It’s definitely special. I’d say this is my No. 1 win. It’s my first really big win.”
Likely the first of many.
Right out of the gate she showed last year was ancient history. She birdied the first two holes and everyone was playing catch-up.
Julianna realizes sports is not the be-all and end-all.
She’s a brilliant student, ranked fifth in a sophomore class of 807 students at Pinkerton, one of the biggest schools on the East Coast. She’s an accomplished pianist who has taken lessons for nine years from Jeannette Lambert of Atkinson. She is practicing diligently for the National Piano Playing Audition 10-year medal.
She’s also in Pinkerton’s student council.
Megan hopes to play Division 1 college golf at a top academic school. Who knows, maybe the Ivy League or Notre Dame are in her future.
Her father, Peter Megan, and her sister, Catherine Megan Whittle, the wife of Salem High soccer coach Kendrick Whittle, both graduated from Notre Dame.
Megan, who grew up in Hampstead but moved to Hooksett over the summer, took up the sport relatively late.
“I first picked up a club in the summer of 2016,” explained Megan, the youngest of four siblings to attend Pinkerton.
Megan said, “Peggy Kirsch was an amazing coach at Newfound Lake at Birdies Range. She played on the (LPGA) tour.”
Kirsch, who died tragically in a July 2018 auto accident, got Julianna started.
The 5-foot-2 Megan then honed her skills under Paul Cournoyer with the Hampstead Middle School team. She’s a member at Hoodkroft Country Club in Derry, Pinkerton’s home course.
The former soccer player quickly grew to love golf.
“This summer I put in more work than ever before,” she said. “I shot in the 70s for the first time. I broke par for nine holes at Hoodkroft. I played in a lot of tourneys. It was cool for all that work to pay off.”
She brings a maturity to the game. She knows what happened freshman year.
“My range-finder died. I chose the wrong club and my putting wasn’t what it is now,” she said. “I 3- or 4-putted and gave away the lead.”
Her drives are now up to 200 yards and her putting is much improved. She’s always been mentally tough.
Megan explained, “I don’t really get fazed. I just keep going. ... I’m just going out and playing golf.”
Her greatest strength?
“Consistency. I’m not particularly good at anything. Chipping if anything. I can recover from shots.”
She proudly points to a disastrous 9 at the New Hampshire Junior Championships. That’s about as bad as it gets for a talented young golfer but she put it behind her and played well the rest of the way.
“I was able to keep plugging along,” she said.
Coach raves about his sophomore captain
Pinkerton Academy golf coach Jeff Sojka knows he has a special kid in Julianna Megan.
It’s not often a sophomore is a team’s lone captain. And a girl on a boys’ team, to boot.
“She was overwhelmingly named captain,” he said. “It just goes to show you what all the kids think of her.”
He said it would be unfair to compare her to his former star, four-time girls state champion Lauren Thibodeau, who is now playing at Division 1 Louisville.
“If there is a comparison,” began Sojka, “it’s Julianna’s drive and focus. Her desire to compete is very strong and that’s the way Laura was wired, too.”
Both grew up in Hampstead and Megan admires Thibodeau but says she’s only met her once.
Sojko had high praise for Megan’s play in winning the girls state title.
“I think she hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation,” said the 6th-year head coach. “She had to grind through some difficult putting. For her to do that and finish with four straight pars was pretty remarkable.”
Megan is an Ivy League-caliber student but ironically it’s her ability not to overthink which is a big key to her success. She put behind her a late collapse at States her freshman year.
Sojka said, “It wasn’t a concern at all for her. I’m super proud of her. She’s such a great kid.”
The NHIAA has crowned a girls open state golf champion since 1985. Here are the local winners.
Year Name School Score
2003 Megan Mangone Salem 39*
2014 Lauren Thibodeau Pinkerton 70
2015 Lauren Thibodeau Pinkerton 76
2016 Lauren Thibodeau Pinkerton 75
2017 Lauren Thibodeau Pinkerton 70
2020 Julianne Megan Pinkerton 78
*9 holes due to weather