July 15, 2011 | By MICHAEL COHEN, email@example.com, The Hartford Courant
WATERTOWN — — All John Flaherty could do was apologize. Holding the glass champion's trophy, he looked over at Brian Butler and said he was sorry. Sorry for stealing the tournament from him.
"Two chip-ins and a 50-foot putt in four holes," Flaherty said. "I've got to say sorry about that, man."
After trailing for all but two of the first 18 holes Thursday, John Flaherty staged one of the most remarkable comebacks in the 70-year history of the Connecticut Junior Amateur Thursday at Watertown Golf Club.
Flaherty, entering his senior year at Glastonbury High School, chipped in from 15 feet at the 18th to force a playoff. Then he halved the first extra hole with a 51-foot birdie putt. On the 21st hole, his flop shot with a 60-degree wedge landed softly and rolled into the cup to save par and wion the tournament.
Butler, who has one year left at Northwest Catholic High in West Hartford, sat slumped in his chair as Flaherty gave his acceptance speech, perhaps stunned by what transpired. He had ahead for more than two hours and walked down the 18th fairway with the lead, but Flaherty's brilliant shot-making.
"Kind of crazy," Flaherty said.
Crazier still was the spot from which his torrid stretch began — behind a tree. Flaherty pulled his drive a few yards off the the fairway on No. 18, leaving his view to the hole obstructed. He punched out using a 4-iron, running the ball up just short of the green and setting the stage for the birdie chip-in.
"That got me going a little bit," he said.
Reinvigorated, Flaherty started the playoff by blasting his ball down the fairway at No. 1. His next shot went to the right, but he recovered with a pitch onto the green, giving himself a chance at birdie.
Butler, though, did better. His approach settled eight feet from the pin. Flaherty was more than 50 feet away on the left side of the green.
It didn't matter. Flaherty stroked the ball and almost immediately walked after it.
"Drop," he called out. "Drop!"
"I hit it, hit my line and the ball just kept tracking and then just finally went in," Flaherty said. "That felt really good."
Magnifying the good feeling was that it came late in a round in which his putter had failed him. He four-putted at the par-3, making double bogey. A birdie try spun out on 11. And he couldn't convert a 14-footer on No. 9 with a chance to win the hole.
Butler, who had a 3-up lead, lost his touch around the greens. He ran lag putts well past the cup on 13 and 16, three-putting each time and losing both. Otherwise, there would have been no 18th hole in this match, no drama from Flaherty.
"Two chip-ins and a 50-foot putt," Flaherty said. "I can't say that happens every round. And three in a stretch of four holes when I needed it the most is just crazy."