July 9—Watertown. If the Connecticut Junior Amateur continues to be a tournament of breakouts, as it has been from its inception, Gunnar Granito could be this year’s poster child.
Granito, who has played three times in the championship and never made it to match play, is headed for the quarterfinals after his 1-up afternoon victory over No. 1 seed Chris Fosdick Tuesday afternoon. Granito took out another favorite, Matt Doyle of Madison, a finalist here last year, with a 1-up victory in the morning. Doyle had a 1-up lead after 15, but Granito tied it at 16 and birdied the 18th to win. Against Fosdick, Granito birdied 13 to go 1-up, then held on for the win as the two parred and tied the last five holes.
It just may be Granito’s year. In June the New Canaan High School grad who plays out of Woodway CC broke through at the FCIAC Championship, another tournament at which he’d struggled mightily, when he won individual title. “I had played horribly my freshman through junior years and all of a sudden this year I win it. So it would be very cool to win here.”
He has two things working for him. First, his Epic Flash driver, which he broke at the FCIAC championship, is back after repair. “I didn’t have it for the states,” says Granito. “I can hit it anywhere. I think I hit driver on every par 4 today. Even if it’s a hybrid or a three-wood shot I’ll just choke down on the driver. That’s the go-to club for me.”
The second? “I’ve been pretty consistent,” says the long hitter who is known to be a bit reckless at times. “That’s what gotten me here. No big numbers. Just a lot of pars. I haven’t been three-putting and I’ve been getting up and down from everywhere.”
Granito, the No. 17 seed, will meet CC Farmington’s John Guerrera, the No. 25, seed Wednesday morning. That same bracket will feature the survivors of two other grindingly competitive matches, Calvin Smith of Wee Burn, and Michael Hanratty of Farmington Woods Country Club.
Smith defeated CC New Canaan’s Ben Loomis, 3 and 1, as their fathers Foster Smith and Mark Loomis, teammates decades ago at Vanderbilt, looked on. Hanratty defeated Hamden’s Alex Aurora in a slugfest that went 19 holes. Their finish went like this: Aurora chipped in for 2 to win the par-3 15th. Hanratty birdied the par-5 16th. Hanratty made a miraculous up-and-in to save par and tie the 17th. Aurora, 1-down now, birdied the 18th to send it to extra holes. Hanratty birdied the first to win.
In the other bracket looms the phenomenal 16-year-old from Milford, Ben James, who sailed through his Tuesday. He won his morning match against Division III champion Colby Norton 6 and 5, and then eliminated a tired Jack Bosworth, who had won in 20 holes over Chris Pieper of TPC River Highlands, 8 and 7. James will play Kevin Lynch of TPC River Highlands, the 30th seed who made it to match play in yesterday’s playoff. Lynch took out both No. 3 seed Ben Carpenter and then No. 14 seed Billy Nail of Greenwich.
James, seeded sixth, finds himself in a bracket of high seeds. Tommy Rosati, son of the Great River Golf Club professional Tom Rosati, No. 31, will play 26-seed Kyle St. Pierre of Newtown Country Club. St. Pierre knocked out No. 7 seed Alex Gu of Darien, 1 up, in the morning. “He was a great opponent,” Gu said of St. Pierre. “He plays very much the same game I do, so it was fun playing against someone like that. I made a couple mistakes late, but I played pretty well. No worries.” St. Pierre beat Raymond Gresalfi of Candlewood Lake in the afternoon.
Rosati defeated Chris Magliocco, 3 and 2, to reach the quarters. Magliocco had taken out Sam Ives of Wee Burn in the round of 16 Tuesday.
Those morning matches had a little of everything. Upsets. Extra holes. And the usual suspects.
Most favorites advanced, but there were plenty of exceptions. The expected:
—No. 1 seed Fosdick, the Division I Individual Champion, defeated No. 32 seed Jackson Roman, who made the field in a playoff Monday afternoon, 5 and 3. Fosdick made four birdies in 15 holes.
—Smith, the Darien 17-year-old who made the round of 16 at the Connecticut Amateur at Fox Hopyard won 7 and 6 over Jacob Lindsay of Shuttle Meadow. “My short game was money today, and it wasn’t yesterday,” said Smith. “Jacob didn’t have a great day, and I hit fairways and most greens or was close. I putted well.”
—Hanratty, the No. 4 seed, advanced over Tyler Woodward of Lyman Orchards (29), one up. Hanratty was 2 up through 13, but Woodward fought back, tying the match on 17, only to lose to a par on the final hole.
—No. 10 seed Gresalfi, who made the round of 16 last year, defeated No. 23 seed Shawn McKnerney of Wethersfield Country Club, 2 and 1.
—Nail, of Millbrook Club and the state champion Greenwich High School team, defeated Isaac Slater of the eClub of the Connecticut, 6 and 4.
The unexpected knock-outs (allowing for the fact that anything can happen in match play):
—Gu of Darien
—Carpenter of New Canaan
—No. 2 seed Jake Napoli of Southington, who shot 69 (-2) yesterday, lost an even-handed match to Rosati of Great River, 1-down. Napoli was 3-up after 10, but Rosati birdies at 12 and 16 and Napoli bogeys on 15 and 17 spelled the difference.
—No. 7 Tommy Dallahan, who lost to Jack Woods, the 24 seed, 2 and 1.
— Kevin Morris of the eClub of Connecticut, No. 5 seed, who lost to Loomis, seeded 28
As the field advanced to the round of 16, seeds 24, 25, 26, 28 and 30 had all advanced.
Of the 16 morning matches, three went extra holes. In perhaps the tightest match of the day—neither opponent ever gained more than a 1-up lead—Bosworth of Hop Meadow outlasted Pieper in 20 holes. Both were within a shot of par in regulation.
Bosworth’s reward: Ben James in the final match of the day.