Zach Zaback of TPC River Highlands put on a storied performance highlighted by a hole-in-one on a par-4 en-route to defeating Corey Birch of Silver Spring Country Club by a score of 9 & 7 in the 36-hole finale of the 114th Connecticut Amateur presented by Kota Solutions. The state’s most prestigious amateur championship was conducted June 13th - 17th at Wethersfield Country Club in Wethersfield, Connecticut.
Zaback, the #6 seed and 2014 Connecticut Amateur Champion, entered the finals of the Connecticut Amateur hoping to win his second CSGA championship this year. The recent University of Connecticut graduate won the Russell C. Palmer Cup at the Country Club of Waterbury by six strokes over Birch, also a recent University of Connecticut graduate, who was looking to capture the first CSGA championship of his career.
Zaback got off to a near-perfect start, making birdie on three of his first five holes to take a 3-up advantage over his former teammate and college roommate.
“The first two holes are pretty gettable and I’ve been playing solid all week. I’ve been hitting it well and putting well, after the start, I just tried to keep my foot on the gas and keep doing what I was doing all week.”
While Birch was able to win the 10th and 12th holes to stay 3-down through twelve holes, Zaback proceeded to win four of the next five holes, highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 14th, to go to 7-up walking down the 18th fairway. A rare bogey from the fairway on the par-4 18th left Zaback 6-up over Birch going into the halfway point of the 36-hole final.
“I won the 18th hole in the morning and thought that was pretty big going into the break, because I figured at least 6-up is better than 7-up,” said Birch.
With the honor on the 1st tee for the 19th hole of the match, Birch hit his tee shot just into the left rough, leaving him a good angle to the middle hole location and a chance at birdie. With a 6-up advantage, Zaback pulled driver and on the 332-yard par-4, landed his tee shot thirty yards short of the green and started rolling towards the green.
“I was watching it get up there and I thought it was going to maybe be just short,” said Zaback. “It kept bouncing up, rolled up on the green, and then it disappeared. I thought maybe it went in but it was hard to tell. To make my first hole-in-one on a par-4 was a pretty cool feeling.
Often times the phrase “shot of the match” or “shot of the tournament” is used, but the hole-in-one made by Zaback could be deemed the single best shot in the 114-year history of the tournament. Zaback’s ace on the par-4 first hole marked his first hole-in-one and the first recorded ace on the 1st hole in the 100-year history of Wethersfield Country Club.Aside from the long list of CSGA championships held at Wethersfield CC, the club famously hosted the Insurance City Open (now the Travelers Championship) from 1952 to 1983. Throughout the years of hosting the best players in the state and across the world, no player has ever recorded an ace on the opening hole.
When all was said and done, Zaback played nearly perfect golf, recording eleven birdies, one eagle and one double-eagle, matched with just one bogey. There isn’t much doubt his round of fourteen under-par for twenty-nine holes will go down as one of the great performances in Amateur history. Zaback only lost four holes throughout the entire final, and bounced back with a win on the following hole each time. Often called the “bounce-back” statistic on the PGA Tour, Zaback played the four holes following a loss in five under-par.
“I can’t even describe it, this was by far the best day of golf I’ve ever had. Everything was on today, I drove it great, my irons were on and I made a lot of great putts.”
With his victory, Zaback becomes just the second player to win both the Russell C. Palmer Cup and Connecticut Amateur Championship in the same season, matching Cody Paladino’s feat from 2013. Zaback has a busy summer of amateur tournament lined up, including the 82nd Connecticut Open at Woodway Country Club, where he will look to become the first player since Jeff Hedden to win the title as an amateur.
Despite falling short on the final day, it was Birch’s first appearance in the Connecticut Amateur finals. Coupled with a runner-up finish earlier this season at the Russell C. Palmer Cup, Birch is off to his best start in his young career. He was two under-par for the 29 holes of the match and played solid golf throughout the day.
“I only had two bogies out there today and just made a lot of pars,” said Birch. “It was a great week and there were a lot of positives to take away. I’m planning on playing the New England Amateur and Connecticut Open before turning professional in the fall”
The 2017 Connecticut Amateur is scheduled for June 12th – 16th at Tashua Knolls Golf Course in Trumbull, Connecticut, which will mark the first time a public facility has hosted the Connecticut Amateur in the 115-year history of the Championship.
The CSGA is back in action July 11th – 14th, when it hosts the Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship presented by Cobra-Puma and Golf on the Green 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. Corey Birch, Silver Spring Country Club, 9 and 7
About the Connecticut Amateur Championship
The Connecticut Amateur Championship is one of the nation’s oldest state amateur golf championships and is one of 18 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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