After four days of golf at the 121st Connecticut Amateur hosted by the Country Club of Darien just two golfers remain – 2013 champion Cody Paladino and two-time champion Rick Dowling. The two will face each other in the 36-hole championship match set to begin at 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning.
The two will be squaring off for the first time in the Connecticut Amateur since Paladino got the better of Dowling in a 20-hole quarterfinal match two years ago at Hartford Golf Club.
In order to reach the finals both players had to navigate through a pair of matches on a picture perfect day for golf. The day for Rick Dowling (Golf Performance Center) began on the par-3 16th hole where he had to finish up his suspended Round of 16 match against Jackson Fretty (Greenwich CC). Matching pars did the trick as Dowling closed out a 3&2 victory to advance to the quarterfinals where he faced Kyle St. Pierre (Newton CC), a winner in 21 holes early Thursday morning against Ben Day (New Haven CC).
St. Pierre controlled much of the match leading 3 up with three holes remaining but Dowling clawed his way back. Beginning on the par-3 16th he dripped in a 50-foot birdie to win the hole and stay alive. On the following hole he rolled in a 10-footer for birdie sending the match to the closing par-5. Playing aggressively Dowling hit a 3-wood approach shot into the green leaving himself a straight forward up and down for birdie, his third straight to tie the match. With all the momentum on his side, Dowling won the match with a par on the first extra hole.
“I felt like I didn’t have anything the first 14 or 15 holes in the quarterfinals this morning,” said Dowling who lost in the finals last year. “Then in the new match (this afternoon) I almost had a fresh start. I had more energy and I felt like I had nothing to lose. It felt like I was playing with house money (this afternoon).”
Playing free and loose in the semifinals Dowling bested AJ Ouimet (CC of Waterbury) 3&2. Picking up right where he left off Dowling won the first hole of the match and never looked back. Leading 2 up after five holes Dowling hit a remarkable shot out of a fairway bunker on the par-4 sixth to 15 feet setting up a birdie that pushed the lead to 3 up. The lead swelled to 4 up with a victory on the par-4 ninth, putting Dowling in position to close out the match on No. 16.
“I’m excited to be in the finals again,” said Dowling. “The way I played this morning I didn’t really expect to reach the championship match but I pulled something out of the hat in the end.”
Dowling’s opponent Cody Paladino (Hartford GC) punched his ticket into the finals thanks to a 2&1 win over Rick Hayes (Silver Spring CC) in the quarterfinals and a 6&5 semifinal victory over Tommy Dallahan (Hartford GC).
“This afternoon I played the best I have played all week,” Paladino said. “Tommy is a great player and I expected it to be a tight match but he didn’t have his best stuff and I played solid. I hit a decent amount of greens and made some up and downs which is encouraging for myself.”
In the semifinals, Paladino got off to a quick start leading 2 up after five holes. With a chance to step on the gas Paladino stuffed his approach shot on the par-4 sixth from 135 yards out to tap in range. With the lead 3 up Paladino didn’t let up earning victories on Nos. 7, 11, and 12.
“Going into tomorrow I am ecstatic,” said Paladino who was the runner-up at the Connecticut Amateur in both 2020 and 2021. “In the 36-hole championship match there are a lot of ebbs and flows and you have to sustain your play. You punch, they punch. I kind of understand that having been in the finals before.”
Courtesy Connecticut State G.A.
ABOUT THE Connecticut Amateur
The Connecticut Amateur Championship is one of
nation’s oldest state amateur golf championships
is one of 19 championship tournaments conducted
the Connecticut State Golf Association. The
challenging format tests the state's best amateur
golfers over two rounds of stroke play to determine
the low thirty-two match play qualifiers. Two rounds
of match play each day culminate in a thirty-six hole
final to crown the top amateur player in Connecticut.
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