Connecticut Amateur champion Rick Dowling (CSGA)
In a clash between two of the top players in the state Rick Dowling outlasted Cody Paladino 2&1 to capture the 121st Connecticut Amateur hosted by the Country Club of Darien.
“It is really cool just to win the tournament. It is a marathon week,” said Dowling who became the ninth player to win at least three Connecticut Amateur titles. “I wasn’t really feeling great about my game earlier in the year. So, to get a little momentum going and play some good golf this week (was great). I was able to sneak through some matches early and then I found my stride. I can’t believe I won. It is awesome.”
Dowling (Golf Performance Center) wasted no time jumping out in front in the championship match. On the opening par-4, he stuffed his first approach shot of the day to seven feet and rolled in the birdie putt to take a 1-up lead. Dowling would never relinquish the lead for the remainder of the day.
Following three consecutive ties Dowling once again went pin seeking on the par-4 fifth. After splitting the fairway with his drive Dowling dropped his approach shot to 8 feet and converted his second birdie of the round to take a 2-up advantage. The win on No. 5 was the first of three straight victories that saw Dowling extend his lead to 4 up.
Still leading 4 up as the match headed for the back nine Dowling made his first mistake of the day sending his tee shot on No. 10 into the parking lot. With the door cracked open Paladino (Hartford GC) won his first hole of the match with a conceded birdie. Dowling would win the next hole but the momentum was beginning to shift.
On the par-4 12th Paladino, the 2013 winner and a finalist in 2020 and 2021, lofted a brilliant approach shot high into the air and watched it land five feet short of the hole setting up his second birdie in three holes. Once again the Dowling lead was trimmed to 3 up. Paladino would creep even closer with victories on Nos. 13 and 16 to move within 1 down.
However, as he would all day long Dowling had an answer. The 2017 and 2019 champion split the fairway with his drive on the closing 508-yard par-5. Electing to play aggressively and with a 3 wood in hand Dowling came up just short of the green with his second shot. Meanwhile, Paladino laid up with his second shot and his third came to rest past the pin on the fringe. With the advantage on the hole Dowling pitched it close for a conceded birdie and when Paladino’s attempt to answer slipped by the cup the lead was 2 up after the morning 18.
In the afternoon it was deja vu all over again as Dowling won the par-4 first with a birdie to increase his lead to 3 up.
“You don’t expect to win the first hole so to get the first one you feel like you have some momentum to start the round,” explained Dowling who lost in the finals last year.
Six consecutive pars followed before Paladino won the 308-yard par-4 eighth with a birdie to cut into the deficit. The players tied the par-4 ninth and with nine holes remaining Dowling held a 2-up lead.
It was a lead Dowling would have to sit on for nearly two hours. As the players were preparing for a pair of birdie putts on the par-4 10th the horn blew and the rain began falling resulting in a stoppage of play.
When play resumed Paladino lined up his 25-foot birdie putt and drained it. Moments later when Dowling couldn’t respond his lead was cut to 1 up. The brief surge by Paladino was short lived however as on the ensuing hole Dowling pushed his lead back to 2 up with a par.
“Playing someone like Cody you have to remember to focus on every shot,” said Dowling. “If you get a couple holes you want to keep that lead the best that you can.”
After matching pars on Nos. 12 and 13 Paladino had another chance to cut into the deficit. Going pin seeking on the 174-yard par-3 14th Paladino flew the green and ended up on the downslope of the fringe. Looking to make something happen Paladino nearly created the spark he needed but his chip burned the edge of the cup resulting in a par that tied the hole.
With holes running out Dowling and Paladino made their way to the 548-yard par-5 15th. Dowling’s drive found the fairway while Paladino missed the fairway right. Both players elected to lay up setting up a wedge contest. Playing first from 135 yards out Dowling stuck his approach shot to five feet. Paladino played next and knocked his approach to 15 feet.
Faced with a near must make putt Paladino couldn’t get his birdie putt to fall and when Dowling dropped in his left-to-right birdie try the lead swelled to 3 up with three holes to play. On No. 16 Paladino staved off elimination for one more hole but on this day Dowling was too much to overcome.
On the next hole, the par-4 17th, both players found the green with their second shots. Paladino faced with a must make birdie attempt was away but ran his putt by the hole. Now only needing to two-putt Dowling cozied his putt close to the hole and when Paladino conceded the par putt it was once again Rick Dowling who was left hoisting the trophy.
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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