Austin Perkins continues the youth movement and wins the Connecticut Amateur
Austin Perkins (Connecticut State Golf Association Photo)
Austin Perkins (Connecticut State Golf Association Photo)

A long day that had begun at 7 a.m. now came down to the final two holes at Torrington Country Club. Austin Perkins had led by as many as 6 up in the 36-hole championship match of the 122nd Connecticut Amateur presented by Middlesex Health, but now he was trying to hold off a charging Jack Chung.

Clinging to a two-up lead with two holes to play, Perkins found the middle of the green on the par-3 17th. Meanwhile, Chung yanked his tee shot left, leaving himself in the rough and short-sided, facing a nearly impossible chip into an elevated green.

Chung hit a good chip shot but still faced 30 feet for par. Needing to convert, Chung, who seemed to roll every putt of the second round into the center of the cup, nearly converted once again. However, when the putt just slid by Austin Perkins, Chung secured a 3&1 victory and made history as the youngest player to ever capture the Connecticut Amateur.

“I’ve put a lot of hard work into my game, and a lot of it’s gone unnoticed,” said 16-year-old Austin Perkins. “I started playing a little later than most kids, but I really knew that with hard work and dedication, I could catch up fast. And this was just the gratification for it all.”

In a battle between the two youngest players to ever reach the Connecticut Amateur final, Perkins came storming out of the gates in the opening round of 18, and by the time the first nine was in the books, Perkins held a 2-up advantage. The highlight of his early surge was a sliding 25-footer for birdie on No. 6 that just trickled into the bottom of the cup.

Boosted by a hot flat sick throughout the opening round, Perkins converted on clutch putt after clutch putt. See his putt on the 183-yard par-3 11th as example A. With Perkins in close, Chung, 3 down at this point, just missed the green with his tee shot, and it looked like he would struggle to make par.

Needing to make something happen, Chung chipped in for birdie and seemed poised to steal a hole. Perkins had other ideas, pouring in an eight-footer for birdie to maintain his advantage. One hole later, he extended his lead with another birdie, this time from 20 feet on the par-5 12th.

With momentum completely on his side, Perkins continued to press on the accelerator and thanks to wins on Nos. 15 and 17 he led 6 up as the first round came to a close.

“Early in the match, I just tried to stick to my process and hit greens and to focus on one shot at a time because over 36 holes, especially when you’re leading on the fifth or sixth hole, it’s really easy to think about what happens if I win today,” Perkins said. “But if you start thinking about that, you probably won’t win. Then, once the putter started working, I was able to steal a few holes, and then I used that momentum to finish out that first 18 strong.”

That momentum continued early in the second round as Perkins and Chung tied the first three holes, allowing the rising junior at Kingswood Oxford to maintain his 6-up advantage.

Just when it appeared as if Perkins was in cruise control, everything began to click for 16-year-old Jack Chung. Needing to make something happen, Chung, who has played in the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur, rattled off three birdies in a row on Nos. 4-6 to, in a blink, move to 3 down. He then won the par-4 seventh with a par and all of a sudden it was game on as Perkins was suddenly just 2 up.

On the next hole, the 390-yard downhill par-4 eighth it looked as if Chung was going to creep even closer. Chung missed the fairway left off the tee while Perkins found the middle of the fairway. Playing first out of some of the deepest and most mangled rough on the course Chung hit a remarkable shot to 12 feet. In search of an answer to stem the tide, Perkins responded by knocking his second shot to within eight feet.

With the tension beginning to mount as the crowd following the match increased Chung dropped in the birdie putt dead center for his fourth birdie in five holes. Desperately looking to stop the bleeding Perkins converted his biggest putt of the day rolling in his birdie try to remain 2 up.

“I think the birdie on No. 8 was my most important putt of the match,” explained Perkins. “There is a huge difference between 2 up and 1 up. I honestly think if I missed that putt it would have been an uphill climb for me and we definitely would have gone to the 18th hole or extras.”

With a boost of confidence, Perkins refound his grove. On the par-4 ninth Perkins dropped in a 30-footer for birdie to take a 3-up lead with nine holes remaining and then after sticking his approach on the short par-4 10th to five feet he rolled in a third straight birdie and pushed his advantage back to 4 up.

Chung however wasn’t going anywhere. A win with a par on No. 11 brought him within 3 down where he remained until the 365-yard par-4 14th when he drilled a 15-footer for birdie to inch to within 2 down with four holes remaining.

Now playing the 466-yard par-4 15th both players were in a good position after their drives. Chung playing aggressively was the first to play into the green and sent his approach shot long well over the putting surface. Perkins took a more conservative approach leaving himself 20 feet for birdie.

At first look, Chung seemed to be out of the hole but he hit a wonderfully lofted third shot that landed softly and trickled out to five feet. When Perkins missed his birdie putt and Chung converted the lead was once again 2 down.

As the drama mounted and with holes dwindling up next was the 530-yard par-5 16th. Chung was in the rough off the tee and was forced to lay up. Perkins, who found the fairway off the tee, went for the green in two but pulled his shot well to the left only to get a fortunate bounce off of a tree and carom into an ideal position in the fairway.

Playing quickly from a comfortable yardage Chung flipped a perfectly struck wedge to five feet setting up a birdie try. Meanwhile, Perkins went long with his chip shot and when his birdie putt missed Chung had a chance to draw as close as he had been all day.

After reading the putt from all angles Chung, who had been putting lights out all afternoon, stunningly missed the birdie putt and both players walked off the green with Perkins still leading 2 up with two holes to play.

Now with the finish line in sight, Perkins took full advantage and closed out the match.

“I knew Jack was going to come out firing early in the second round because that’s just the player he is,” Perkins said. “But I just tried to hang in there and kept telling myself to stick with it and that you can do it. I wasn’t thinking about ending the match early because I knew he was going to continue to fire. And honestly, by the end, I didn’t really know if I was playing Jack or Tiger Woods. Honestly, on No. 17 I thought he was just going to hole his chip. Fortunately, he didn’t, and I was able to win the match.”

Not only did Perkins win the match but he automatically qualified for the 124th U.S. Amateur in August at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

“Qualifying for my first USGA event is huge especially with it being a U.S. Amateur because there aren’t that many juniors that qualify for it,” Perkins said. “Going to Minnesota is going to be a blast. It’s still almost two months away so I have a lot of time to prepare because I know the golf course will be set up hard but I’m really psyched.”

Results: Connecticut Amateur
WinCTAustin PerkinsW. Hartford, CT200
Runner-upCTJack ChungGreenwich, CT100
SemifinalsCTAshton LewisFairfield, CT50
SemifinalsCTMike RothbergFairfield, CT50
QuarterfinalsCTBen CarpenterDarien, CT25

View full results for Connecticut Amateur

ABOUT THE Connecticut Amateur

The Connecticut Amateur Championship is one of the nation’s oldest state amateur golf championships and is one of 19 championship tournaments conducted by 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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