Links: Final Results
Zach Zaback, 20, of TPC River Highlands, took a 2-Up lead into the final nine of the 36-hole final and never looked back, posting a 1-Up victory on Friday over 24-year-old Kevin Josephson of the Country Club of Farmington to capture the 112th Connecticut Amateur Championship.
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.
Zaback, a rising junior at the University of Connecticut, entered the finals of the Connecticut Amateur hoping to capture his first CSGA major championship, and he did just that. The 20-year-old was able to navigate his way around the South Course at Lake of Isles, a challenging 6,879 yard par-72 layout that demanded precision and accuracy off the tee.
Both Zaback and Josephson began the morning round seeking to capture their first Connecticut Amateur title, and after 18-holes, the match remained all square. Both players shot rounds of two under-par 70 in the morning, highlighted by a flurry of clutch birdies and incredible par saves.
The turning point of the match came at the difficult par-4 7th. All square through 25 holes, both Josephson and Zaback drove it into the thick brush lining the fairway. Both players struggled to advance it, with Zaback forced to take an unplayable lie penalty and Josephson unable to pitch out after a pair of swings. With both players lying four in the fairway, Zaback hit a laser-like approach to the back-left hole location and drained a 10-foot downhill slider to take the 1-up lead with just eleven holes to play.
“We both kind of shot ourselves in the foot there, so to speak. I was able to get up-and-down for six and win the hole, which was a huge momentum boost for me.”
Indeed, it was just the boost he needed. Zaback would go on to win Holes #9 and 11 to take a 3-Up lead with just seven holes to play.
However, Josephson refused to go away quietly. He promptly bounced back with wins on the 12th and 13th holes to close the gap to within one. Knowing that he needed birdie on the par-5 17th, Josephson hit driver off the tee and was able to reach the 550-yard hole in two shots, a hole that Zaback eagled in the morning round. With his ball in the bunker and Zaback just short, he made a magnificent up-and-down from the greenside bunker for a birdie four, good enough for a halve and a chance to win the 18th.
In the morning round, Josephson birdied the 18th hole to even the match, but it was not meant to be in the afternoon. After driving it in the fairway, his second shot landed just ten feet from the hole, but spun nearly 50-feet down the slope guarding the difficult hole location. Seeing Josephson's birdie putt slide by and a mere twenty feet from the hole for birdie, two putts were all that was needed for Zaback to secure a hard earned 1-Up victory and the Connecticut Amateur trophy.
“First off, I just want to say thanks to everyone for their support all week. Its an amazing feeling to win…I never thought I would be able to say I was the Connecticut Amateur Champion, but now I can. It’s a great feeling and I’m just happy I was able to pull it off at the end.”
Zaback has played some magnificent golf this spring, leading his team with a scoring average of 74.85 that included an individual win at the New England Division I Championships. He also briefly shared the lead during the final round of the 11th Russell C. Palmer Cup before eventually finishing in a tie for sixth.
Despite falling short on the final day, it was Josephson’s first appearance in the finals and a tremendous accomplishment for one of Connecticut’s top amateur golfers.
“This week is something I’ll remember for the rest of my career. To have such great support from all of my family, friends and caddy Nick Hudyma was so special. We had a great time and a lot of fun out there, and it is definitely something I will build on for the rest of the summer.”
Josephson and Zaback will be competing in the 80th Connecticut Open Championship, which will be played later this summer at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton, Connecticut. Both are certainly on the short list of amateur players who will look to become the first amateur since Jeff Hedden (2009) to capture the title.
Courtesy of the ShowMeGolfers platform and Golf Metrics, the CSGA had live coverage of the final match available on the tournament website. The entire 36-hole final was broadcast shot-by-shot courtesy of ShowMeGolfers, and spectators across the state were able to watch the match through the Live Round Tracker. The innovative system tracked each player’s position on the course and included stats such as driving distance, fairways hit and greens in regulation.
The CSGA is back in action July 7th – 10th, when it hosts the Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship presented by Cobra-Puma at Watertown Golf Club. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend. For more information on Connecticut Junior Amateur, visit CTJunior.com.
36-Hole Final Match
Zach Zaback, TPC River Highlands def. Kevin Josephson, CC of Farmington, 1-Up