OLD LYME, Conn. — Greg Reilly, 23, of the Country Club of Darien and Evan Grenus, 18, of TPC River Highlands each won their semifinal match Thursday afternoon to advance to the 36-hole final of the 113th Connecticut Amateur. The championship is being conducted June 15th - 19th at Black Hall Club in Old Lyme, Conn.
Reilly, the #9 seed, narrowly edged CJ Swift of Great River GC, 1-up in his semifinal match to advance to the finals. Reilly, who knocked off Patrick Hallisey of TPC River Highlands in his morning quarterfinal match, jumped out to an early lead, winning holes #2, 3, 6 and 7 to take an early 3-up lead. Even with a substantial lead and in control, Reilly knew the match was far from over.
“When I was 3-up, I wasn’t satisfied. I had a feeling he would come back….CJ is just too good of a player for me to make that many mistakes,” said Reilly.
Swift, the 2012 New England Amateur Champion, proceeded to win the next four holes (#8-11), to swing the match from 3-down to 1-up. The two traded blows on #13 and 15, and standing on the 16th tee, Reilly was in danger of letting the match slip away.
“On the 16th tee, all I was thinking was I just have to win one of the next three holes to extend the match somehow, some way,” said Reilly. “I pulled a 7-iron on 17 and hit the best shot I hit all day to 20-feet just past the flag. It was a really hard putt to read, but I took my time and somehow rolled it in for birdie.”
All-square heading to the difficult par-4 18th, Swift hit his tee shot right into the trees and was forced to punch out. With Reilly in the middle of the fairway after a perfect drive, it seemed par would be enough to secure the win. However, he tugged his approach into the bunker and faced a seemingly impossible up-and-down to the back left hole location. From there, Reilly hit the shot of the match to 12-feet underneath the hole, and after Swift’s par attempt came up short, he calmly rolled in the putt for his first trip to the Amateur finals.
“This is a big deal for me. I made it to the semifinals four years ago and got beat pretty bad. I really made it my goal to get back to this position and make it to the finals. . I know it’s going to be a long day tomorrow but I’m confident and looking forward to the challenge.”
The other semifinal match took quite the opposite turn, as Grenus earned his place in the finals after knocking off defending champion Zach Zaback, also of TPC River Highlands, in decisive fashion. On the difficult 6,666 yard par-71 layout, Grenus recorded five birdies and no bogies en-route to a 7 and 6 victory over the 2014 CSGA Player of the Year.
“Today was one of the most solid days of golf that I've had this year,” said Grenus. “Everything all around was pretty solid and my putter was hot all day. I was making a lot of birdies and not too many mistakes out there.”
Indeed, his afternoon round of five under-par through 12 holes was impressive, but the round is even more remarkable given the number of holes Grenus had played in his first three matches. In his first three matches, he played a combined 64 holes, equating to 10 extra holes. Compare that to Reilly, who only needed 46 holes to win his first three matches. But as the saying goes, youth is a wonderful thing, and the 18 year old from Glastonbury looked as energetic and lively as ever in his semifinal match.
Despite his age, Grenus carries a wealth of experience heading into the final match. In 2014, he won the Connecticut Junior Amateur championship at Watertown Golf Club, and advanced to the finals of the Junior Amateur the year before. A rising sophomore at Wofford College, he hopes to be the first former Junior Amateur Champion to go on to win the Amateur since Kevin Gai of Indian Hill CC (1983 Junior Amateur and 1996 Amateur Champion).
“Tomorrow, I expect the same thing. It's 36 holes so it's going to be a little bit longer. I ‘ve got to keep the hot putter going and keep it to minimal mistakes out there,” said Grenus.
Friday will mark the first time for both Reilly and Grenus in the finals of the Connecticut Amateur Championship. The 36-hole final begins at 7:30 a.m. and a live, shot-by-shot broadcast of the final match will be available at CTAmateur.com.
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