When Richard Dowling of Shelton, Connecticut stepped on the first tee Monday morning to begin his quest for the 115th Connecticut Amateur Championship, it felt like just another round at a course he knows so well. After all, the 24 year-old from Shelton grew up playing at Tashua Knolls Golf Course and has hit that first tee shot countless times. Five days and 141 holes later, he was left holding the trophy on that same tee box.
After shooting rounds of 68-72—140 (-4) to grab the #5 seed in match play, Dowling’s road to the finals was a grueling one. He needed extra holes in both his Round of 32 and Round of 16 matches to advance, and then knocked off a pair of rising stars in Justin Clark and Blake Kelly to make his first appearance in the finals. In fact, it was his first time making match play at the Connecticut Amateur and heading into the final match, and his game plan was a simple one – have fun.
Dowling faced off against 2015 Connecticut Amateur Champion Evan Grenus, and even after an early lead, he knew it wouldn’t be an easy road to victory in the 36-hole final. Grenus, a rising senior at Wofford college, was a remarkable 18-1 in CSGA match play dating back to 2013. The two traded blows throughout much of the day, with Dowling taking an 1-up lead after the first 18 and never trailed throughout the match. After Grenus made birdie on the 32nd hole to square the match and the pair halved with birdies on the 33rd hole, it was clear that one shot or one putt would be the difference.
“It was back and forth all day,” said Dowling. “I was up early and then Evan came back, so it definitely a good match and it came right down to the end.”
Enter the par-3 17th, the 35th hole of the match. Playing at just over 150 yards to a tucked hole location, Dowling hit his shot to ten feet left of the hole and faced a bending left-to-right putt to take a 1-up lead. When his putt trickeled over the edge and found the bottom of the cup, he took a 1-up advantage heading into the final hole and the momentum had swung once more.
“I saw the putt, I saw the read, I knew all I needed to do was hit it to get it there and thankfully it did,” said Dowling.
Grenus had a chance to square the match once more on the 36th hole, hitting his approach shot to ten feet and needing birdie to force extra holes. When Grenus’ birdie effort narrowly slid by the hole, the championship was decided. On the same 18th green that Dowling finished so many rounds as a child, he finished off a remarkable performance and can proudly call himself the Connecticut Amateur Champion.
“It’s unbelievable, that’s all I can say. I just want to thank all of the people here this week who made it possible.”
For Dowling, the win is a culmination of hard work and dedication. The 2015 Fairfield University graduate won the ECAC Championship while playing on their Division I collegiate golf team, but Friday marked his first CSGA championship trophy. He currently works for Junior Golf Hub, an online community for junior golfers seeking to play collegiate golf, and was a CSGA Widdy Neale Scholarship recipient.
Both players saved their best golf for last and provided some exceptional entertainment for the spectators eagerly watching the match. The pair combined for a remarkable seventeen birdies and thirteen lead changes, with Dowling only briefly holding a 2-up advantage early in the match. Dowling relied on his exceptional driving throughout the week, making only five bogies in 36-holes on his way to victory.
“The course really suits my game, I grew up playing here so I felt really good over the tee shots and I know the greens really well,” said Dowling. “I drove the ball really well all week and that was really the key for me. I didn’t make a lot of bogies and just kept the ball in play all week.”
Richard Dowling, Eclub of Connecticut def. Evan Grenus, TPC River Highlands, 1 up
About the Connecticut Amateur Championship
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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