Watertown (July 9, 2020) Two players known for both steady play and clutch shot making battled it out in the finals of the 79th Connecticut Junior Amateur on Thursday at Watertown Golf Club. Matthew Doyle of Madison Country Club, runner up in the championship in 2017, took on Kyle St. Pierre of Newtown Country Club, who was making his first appearance in the finals, after having reached the semis in 2019.
A pair of young veterans, whose games are mature well beyond their years.
Doyle jumped out to a quick 1-up lead with a birdie at the 1st, gave it back with a bogey at the 2nd, then won the 3rd with birdie and the 4th with par to go 2up.
“I got off to kind of a slow start,” said St. Pierre, “which you really don’t want to do against a player like Matt, but I felt like I would get it going and do some good things.”
St. Pierre’s six-footer for birdie won the par 5, 7th to get him back to one down. The pair then traded pars over the next three holes, but on #11 St. Pierre found tree trouble right, while the steady Doyle again found fairway, green and an eventual par to go two up.
“Except for the result, it was a little like that final match two years ago (against Connor Belcastro) when I was 2-up after 10,” said Doyle, “I was pretty determined not to let this one get away, so maybe it’s a little bit of redemption.”
After two more grinding pars on holes 12 and 13, Doyle was still 2-up, now with 5 to play. Both players hit outstanding shots into the 200-yard, par 3, 14th, each roughly 15 feet on either side of the hole. St. Pierre, with a down-hiller, was declared away by a fraction.
“I felt like Kyle was going to make it, and as soon as it left his putter face I could see it was a perfect roll,” said Doyle.
Looking to cut the lead to just one with four to play, St. Pierre punched the air as his ball dropped into the hole.
Doyle was not to be outdone. With a punch of his own he drained the uphill birdie to keep the margin at two.
Careful pars on the short but slick 15th followed. Doyle two-up with three to play.
On 16, the reachable par-5, St. Pierre’s 2nd shot left him 10 yards short, but with a steep downhill lie, and a difficult flop required to a front hole location. Doyle flew his 2nd high and into the middle of the green leaving a 30-footer for eagle that looked for the moment to be a game clincher.
After St. Pierre craftily floated his pitch and run to 6 feet by, the best anyone could have done from the location, Doyle trickled his eagle attempt to three feet short.
“That was a tough one,” said Doyle, “that putt had about 8 feet of break and I just didn’t want it to get away from me. I figured if I could get out of there with a birdie, I’d be two up with two to go.”
He could have won it right there on the 16th green, but the unflappable St. Pierre calmly dropped his 6-foot slider for birdie, forcing Doyle to top his opponent with one of his own for the second time in two holes. Mission accomplished as his ball found the center of the hole, and yes, two up with two to play.
On 17, St. Pierre found the left fairway bunker, then the front of the green after a decent effort from the sand, but still 50 feet short of the hole. Doyle appeared to need only par to claim the title. A wedge to 30 feet from the left rough set the stage. Needing just two putts after St. Pierre’s bomb attempt slid by, Doyle rolled his to tap-in distance, and the championship that eluded him two years earlier was his.
For Doyle, the Connecticut Junior was his third significant victory over the past three weeks, having previously won the PGA CT Section Junior Championship, and the US Challenge Cup Computer Merchant title.
Both players praised Watertown’s course conditions and thanked superintendent, Paul Bonini, whose efforts were most noticeable on Wednesday after torrential rain caused a suspension of play for several hours.
“It was incredible that we were able to get back out there, and to see that the course was in perfect condition was amazing,” said Doyle, who at 17, along with St. Pierre will be back at Watertown in 2021 for yet another crack at the Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship.
Young veterans indeed.