Watertown (July 7, 2020) Sixteen-year-old Kyle St. Pierre of Shelton made the semi-finals of the Connecticut Junior Amateur last year and ran into what he calls “an immovable force.” Ben James.
James, who went on to win the Junior, is not back, but St. Pierre is. He won twice on the first day of match play at the 79th Junior Amateur and hopes that tomorrow, a little better conditioned he says for the marathon of the golf the juniors play this week, and he’ll face Jackson Roman, another “veteran” of the championship in the quarterfinals.
“I kind of ran out of steam last year, so I tried to improve my conditioning,” said St. Pierre, who works with his father Jim, the professional at Newtown Country Club, and a former Connecticut Open champion, and Great River’s Tom Rosati. St. Pierre said improved iron play has helped.
It wasn’t as if he St. Pierre had a lucky draw. After eliminating William Whitaker of the Club at River Oaks, St. Pierre faced Michael Hanratty, another former semi-finalist in the Junior Amateur, who just made match play in the Connecticut Amateur, and who at 16 played all 54 holes in the Connecticut Open. Hanratty had defeated Wee Burn Country Club’s Calvin Smith in the morning, but fell to St. Pierre, 4 and 3. “It really came down to putts. I made a bunch for par and birdie. Michael missed a couple of par putts in the middle of the round and that kind of threw him off his groove, I think.”
St. Pierre, Jackson and Jack Bosworth were joined by recent Darien High School graduate Alex Gu, another former Junior Amateur semi-finalist, who won the 2019 CIAC Open Championship and last year’s Connecticut Junior PGA Championship.
Gu battled to a 19th hole victory against Colby Norton of Torrington Country Club, in what he described as a great match—“boy that kid has heart” he said of his opponent—and then eliminated Garret Brown of Hartford Golf Club.
If St. Pierre’s presence wasn’t a surprise, given his past play here, No. 32 Brown’s victory over medalist and No. 1 seed Max Chubet of Chippanee Golf Club, 2 and 1, certainly was. Brown joined Hartford’s Henry Krieble to make the round of 16. In what was a more expected result Henry Krieble defeated Luke Karpiej of East Hartford Golf Club, 4 and 3. For both, the success was short lived. Krieble lost to Cody Brew of Tumble Brook Country Club in the afternoon, 4 and 2, in a match in which both players were over par.
Madison Golf Club also advanced two to the Round of 16. Matthew Doyle, who just a week ago won the Connecticut PGA Junior Championship at Keney Park, defeated Luke Stennett of Portland, 2 and 1. (Stennett won the Ryan Lee Memorial at Timberlin last July.)
Doyle, the No. 5 seed, then survived the match of the day, a 21-hole-battle with Bradley Sawka of Ellington Ridge Country Club, who had defeated John Guerrera of the Country Club of Farmington, 2 up, in the morning.
The Doyle/Sawka match was impressive. Both players shot 70. Sawka, three down after nine, shot four-under 32 on the back to tie the match. His back nine included a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th after Doyle had hit it to kick-in range, and an up-and-in from the green side bunker on 18, to match Doyle’s par.
Doyle’s frequent playing partner Aidan Stuart won two matches that went to the 17th hole, beating Jake Ivan-Pal of Great River, 2 and 1 in the morning and Kevin Morris of eClub of Connecticut in the afternoon, 3 and 1.
“It feels good to have two of us [in the quarterfinals],” said Stuart. Bragging rights? “Sure.” This is Stuart’s first trip to match play. “I missed by a shot last year. I’ve worked on my game since, I feel much better about it.”
The other two quarter finalists were Ben Boyd of Wampanoag Country Club and Jack Bosworth of Hop Meadow Country Club. Boyd easily defeated Charles Smilovic of Greenwich Country Club in the morning, 8 and 6, and then eliminated Mike Rothberg of Mill River in the afternoon, 2 and 1. (Rothberg had beaten Michael Derienzo of Heritage Village, 3 and 2, in the first round. Bosworth beat Vasily Konachenkov of Lyman Orchards Golf Club, 3 and 2, in the morning and then held on to defeat Connor Goode of Glastonbury Hills Country Club, one up. (Goode eliminated Bennett Ostern of Hop Meadow in the morning.)
Conditions were, for the most part, benign, but Superintendent Paul Bonini’s crew had greens and fairways in prime condition. With winds freshening in the afternoon, slick greens got even slicker. “With the wind, as it picked up, some of the greens became almost impossible to hold,” said Gu. “The greens were definitely tough.”
Not everyone played better in the afternoon, the marathon of golf taking a toll even on teenagers but Roman was one who did, partially because of becoming accustomed to the putting surfaces. Roman beat Cole Hahn of the Golf Club of Avon in the morning, one up. His match against Ishan Madan of the Washington Club was a bit more decisive partly because, he said, “I put myself in some similar spots and in the afternoon and I kind of new what the ball was going to do. In the morning I was putting four and five feet past. In the afternoon I hit more putts short. I had a few two- and three-footers for par, but not longer. And I made ‘em.” Roman defeated Madan, who had eliminated Christopher Pieper in the morning, 4 and 2. He was four under par through 16.
Matches begin at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, with Gu facing Brew, St. Pierre versus Roman, Boyd playing Doyle and Bosworth, in the last match at 8:30, meeting Stuart.
Semi-finalists will meet in the afternoon.