Kevin Josephson, 24, of the Country Club of Farmington and ZachZaback, 20, of TPC River Highlands, each won their semifinal match Thursday afternoon to advance to the 36-hole final of the 112th Connecticut Amateur Championship at Lake of Isles.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Connecticut Amateur Championship is one of the nation’s oldest state amateur golf championships. 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.
Josephson, the #16 seed, defeated John Flaherty of TPC River Highlands, 2 and 1, in his semifinal match to advance to the finals. Josephson and Flaherty were all square through the front nine, but a pair of par’s on the 10th and 12th holes gave Josephson a 2-Up lead with six holes to play. Flaherty bounced back with a birdie on the 13th, but a clutch birdie on the par-3 16th by Josephson all but sealed the match.
“I knew I could stick to making pars and try not to make bogies, I would have a pretty good chance. I didn’t make any bogies on the back nine, and birdied #16 and 17 to seal the match.”
Josephson will be seeking to capture his first CSGA major championship, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of longtime friend Cody Paladino, who won the Connecticut Amateur last year and caddied for Josephson in his semifinal match this afternoon.
“To have Cody on the bag certainly helped out, and this was actually the first time he caddied for me,” said Josephson. “We have a great relationship and were really loose out there, and just tried to have a good time. To win tomorrow would be incredible to win, especially after Cody last year. It would be really special and I can’t wait to get started tomorrow morning.”
The other semifinal match took quite the opposite turn, as Zaback earned his place in the finals after clawing his way back into his semifinal match against Branden Chircorka of the Eclub of River Valley. Zaback made the turn three down through nine holes against Chicorka, and faced a difficult par save on the 10th to halve the hole.
“That was definitely the turning point in the match for me. If I lost that hole, I would’ve been four down. It was a clutch up and down, and I made some clutch putts and chips when I needed to.”
After making the putt for par on the 10th to halve the hole, he rallied to win the 12th and 15th holes to close the gap to within one. Still trailing heading to the 18th, Zaback hit driver to just 30 yards from the green and hit a delicate pitch shot to within three feet from the hole. A birdie three was enough to force extra holes, and a birdie on the 3rd playoff hole sealed his place in the final match.
“To win tomorrow would be amazing,” said Zaback. “I know there’s been some great Connecticut Amateur champions in the past. This is my Connecticut Amateur and it’s been a great experience so far.”
Zaback, a rising junior at the University of Connecticut, enters the finals of the Connecticut Amateur also seeking to capture his first CSGA Major Championship. He briefly shared the lead at this year’s Russell C. Palmer Cup before eventually finishing in a tie for sixth, and finished third at the 2013 New England Amateur Championship.
Friday will mark the first time for both Josephson and Zaback in the finals of the Connecticut Amateur Championship. The 36-hole final begins at 8:00 a.m. and a live, shot-by-shot broadcast of the final match will be available at CTAmateur.com.
36-Hole Final Match
8:00 a.m. – Kevin Josephson, CC of Farmington vs. Zach Zaback, TPC River Highlands
Kevin Josephson, CC of Farmington def. John Flaherty, TPC River Highlands, 2 and 1
Zach Zaback, TPC River Highlands def. Branden Chicorka, Eclub of River Valley, 21 Holes
Kevin Josephson, CC of Farmington def. Jeffrey Evanier, Eclub of New Haven, 21 Holes
John Flaherty, TPC River Highlands def. Philip Perry, Black Hall Club, 1 Up
Zach Zaback, TPC River Highlands def. Monte Mullen, TPC River Highlands, 2 and 1
Branden Chicorka, Eclub of River Valley def. Patrick Albanesi, Hartford Golf Club, 6 and 5