Norwalk (June 24, 2020) The Connecticut Amateur is golf’s version of a marathon, made no easier this year when the 36-hole stroke play qualifying took place in one day instead of two.
But three consecutive days of 36 holes—in 90-degree heat and walking—apparently is a format that works. This year it’s set up a generational battle between two of the best to ever play in the state, on a Shorehaven Golf Club course in pristine condition.
Nineteen-year-old Chris Fosdick, a college All-American who won the first Connecticut High School Open Championship two years ago, will meet Cody Paladino, a former professional who has previously won not only this tournament (2013) but the Connecticut Open (2015) as well.
Fosdick is the surprise, not because he’s not a great young player, but because to reach the final he had to beat medalist Brad Tilley, another former professional, which he did, 2-up even when Twilley dropped a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to up the pressure.
It won’t get easier for Fosdick tomorrow.
In Paladino, who spent five years playing tours around the world, and who beat a third former professional, Ben Day, to reach the final, he’ll have his young hands full. “I’m excited,” beamed Fosdick after his dramatic victory against Tilley. “I’ve played with Cody before and he’s a great guy and it will be fun.” Fosdick is a rising college sophomore who will transfer from Florida Southern to the University of Virginia, in where Tilley captained the golf team, in the fall.
They almost never met in that semi-final. Fosdick pre-qualified for the the Monday Travelers Championship qualifier and so had to choose between that and the Amateur. “Mike [Executive Director Mike Moraghan] wanted me to play, and I wanted to improve my amateur status. This was better for that, so I’m here. I know now it was the right decision.”
Either of the two matches that brought Paladino and Fosdick to the final could qualify as the match of the championship. While Fosdick was battling Tilley to the final hole, his friend and former Tri-State teammate Ben James, 17, was doing the same to Paladino. James birdied the 15th and 16th holes to square that match and lost only when he was unable to get up and down from just over the green on 18.
“I know Chris, and I know he’s got a great game and knows how to win,” said Ben Day, “and I guess I’m a little surprised only because Brad is such a good player, but Chris belongs.”
Paladino had similar things to say about James.
“That is the best I’ve played in a long long time and it’s the best I’ve seen someone else play,” said Paladino. “I played exceptionally well,” said Paladino. “That’s the best golf I’ve played in a long time and the best golf I’ve seen played by somebody else in a long time. It was amazing. There was no let-up. Nobody gave anybody any holes. I’m sure we both shot four or five under par. We halved a bunch of holes with birdies. The kid is an unbelievable competitor. He’s not 17 years old. He’s a legitimate division 1 college player. If he were competing in tour events I’m sure he would do just fine.” Aside from that final hole, the match also turned on the ninth, where, after Paladino wins on the 7th and 8th to go one up, James hit it to a foot. Paladino made a downhill 20-footer to tie the hole.
For his part James said he was disappointed but felt that he had played well, aside from a few mistakes, mostly around the greens. His eyes now are on the North & South Championship that begins June 30.
Paladino, suffering no apparent letdown after the James match, came out strong against Day, who started slowly (four over and three down at the turn) and could never make up the ground. “It’s disappointing,” said Day, the 2019 Mid-Amateur Champion. “I think I ran out of gas a bit. It’s a lot of golf and I’m not used to playing 36, let alone three days in a row. I just ran out of steam. Cody deserved to win. He’s a tough player and he’s a friend of mine. I’m upset that I lost, but I’ll be rooting for him.”
Day defeated Rider College star Thomas Durkin of Suffield Country Club, 2 and 1, in the morning quarters, while Tilley eliminated Dan Murphy of H. Smith Richardson, 6 and 4. Fosdick beat Adam Friedman of Great River, 4 and 3.
In his the semifinal, Tilley, the reigning MGA Mid-Amateur champion, also started sluggishly, acknowledging back stiffness that began in the morning. He was never up in the Fosdick match, thanks to three-putts on the first two holes and a bogey at four. Still two down, Tilley got a bad break on the short par-4 14th, when his lob wedge approach hit in front of the hole, hit the flagstick and rolled off the green. “It took one hop short of the pin, bounced up into the pin and ricocheted off the green. We both made par there so it wasn’t a lost hole, but I think I would have won that one and applied more pressure,” said Tilley, 37.
Tilley added that pressure on 16, when he holed a 25-foot birdie to reduce Fosdick’s lead to one. But the future Virginia Cavalier hit superb tee shots at both the wiindy par-3 17th and final hole, where, on the advice of a previous opponent and Shorehaven member, Jason Jaworoski, he hit driver. Tilley was gradious in defeat. “You know, I hate losing. I hate it more than I like winning. But kudos to Chris. And if I have to lose, losing to a Cav or future Cav is not so bad. I’m happy for him and I hope he goes on and wins this thing tomorrow.”