July 5—The Connecticut Junior Amateur is, typically, a tournament of breakthroughs and breakouts.
Over the years it has identified, early on, some of the strongest competitors in Connecticut history: Dick Siderowf, Jeff Hedden, Brett Stegmaier, Mike Ballo, Jr., John VanDerLaan, and many others.
It was a breakthrough last year when Connor Belcastro of Rowayton and the Brunswick School won. Especially given that pre-championship forecasts centered around 15-year-old phenomenon Ben James, CIAC Open Champion Chris Fosdick, and Belcastro’s Brunswick School teammate Matt Camel, who had just come off a torrid, two-ace weekend in Indiana, winning an AJGA event by ten shots. Belcastro was not part of the pre-tournament conversation, but he has been since.
He returns, coming off a strong showing in the Connecticut Amateur at Fox Hopyard, where he made match play and advanced into the round of 16.
But given the Junior Amateur’s penchant for putting its finger on new stars, there are others to consider in this year’s mix.
—James, coming off victory in last week’s AJGA Killington Junior, is longer and stronger. Even as a high school freshman he has been recruited by Virginia. Ranked nationally among the top-5 in the class of 2022, he reached the round of 32 in the U.S. Junior Amateur last year.
—Fosdick, Division I individual champion at Timberlin (the only player under par) the 2018 CIAC Open champion, and a freshman-to-be at NCAA Division II Champion Florida Southern.
—Sixteen-year-old Matt Doyle, last year’s runner-up, who won this year’s Division II CIAC championship and led Daniel Hand to the team title.
—Alexander Gu, the rising Darien High senior who won the CIAC Open Championship and last week the Connecticut PGA Junior Championship
—Çalvin Smith, who paired with Gu to win the Chappa Invitational early this year and who also made the round of 16 at Fox Hopyard.
—New Canaan’s Gunnar Granito, the 2019 FCIAC individual champion.
—Michael Hanratty, the 16-year-old from Farmington Woods, who made the cut at last year’s Connecticut Open Championship.
—Alex Aurora, second to Gu in both the CIAC Open and the Connecticut PGA Junior Championship.
—Billy Nail of the FCIAC and state champion Greenwich Cardinals.
—Ben Loomis, who narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur last month and is a first alternate
—Tyler Woodward of Lyman Orchards, who tied second with Aurora in the PGA Junior, and, along with Gu and Aurora, will play in the national PGA Junior Championship later this month.
Given the history of the Junior, we very well may have missed the player who will win the William Salvatore trophy this year. We don't think so. But it’s that kind of tournament.