Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - Forty-two-year old Brian Ahern, who had not won an individual CSGA championship since the 2012 Connecticut Mid-Amateur, weathered chilly and wet conditions Tuesday, not to mention a few nerves, to shoot 67-71 at the Country Club of Farmington to win the 15th Russell C. Palmer Cup by one over Rasmey Kong and Andrew Sciarretta—both more than 20 years his junior.
At (-5) 208 Ahern, of Wampanoag Country Club, was one of only four players under par, and only 6 to match or better par in the afternoon, when wet, burly rough and lowering temperatures added yards and tested temperaments.
Ahern was only the second golfer in state history to win the Connecticut Amateur (1999), the Connecticut Mid-Am (2010 and 2012) and the Palmer Cup, the state’s premier stroke-play competition, joining Willam Hadden.
“I drove it well and I putted really, really well,” said Ahern, and It’s been a while since I did that. It feels good to play this well again.”
Early in the final round, Ahern made it look as though it might be a runaway. When he got up-and-in for birdie on the par-5 10th, he reached -9. He admitted that pressure contributed to four bogeys in the final eight holes.
“I’ll blame that on the weather, I guess,” he laughed after the round, surrounded by family, including father Dave and older brother David. “No, I was leaking oil for sure. Those young guys wouldn’t be feeling that. It’s been a while since I’ve been here. But this is pretty cool stuff.” His final round was, said older brother David, 49, “typical Brian. “He’s a great putter, and great at getting up and down. He’s a grinder.”
Both Kong and Sciarretta finished -4, with birdie opportunities on 18. Kong left a 20-foot uphill attempt an inch short. Sciarretta’s 60-yard chip rolled narrowly by the hole. Kong had also lipped out a 10-footer on 17—“a 360” he and his father, Soweth, who caddied for him, called it.
Kong shot 71, Sciarretta 72 in the final to go with rounds of 69 and 68, respectively, in the morning. Sciarretta opened both nines in the afternoon with doubles, but managed four birdies in difficult conditions to stay in contention.
Ben Conroy of New Haven Country Club was the only other golfer under par at (-1) 70. Seventeen-year-old Jackson Fretty, who led Monday’s round with 68, slipped to 76-75 and finished T-12.
New Haven’s Timothy Kane, who shot 70-72 Tuesday, and was one of five from New Haven Country Club who made the cut. He finished in fifth at (+1), 214, and blamed conditions for the high rounds Tuesday afternoon. “This morning there wasn’t a bit of wind. The course was soft. I won’t say it was it was playing easy, but it was playing as easy as this golf course will play. Then it began to rain and it didn’t stop. It got colder and by the end of the round it was playing 2 or 3 clubs longer. It was a grind.”
“I’ll always play the Palmer Cup,” said Kane. “Mr. Palmer, before he passed away, was just a wonderful, wonderful man. I’ll never forget getting a note from him after winning the Amateur. It was just one of the neatest things I’ve ever gotten.”
Kane played with Chris Herboldt of Wethersfield Country Club, who used a 5-iron Monday to ace the par-3 second hole. He shot 74-77 Tuesday to go with an even-par first round to finish T-22.
The field of 96 was reduced to 41 after Monday’s round. The remaining players, who had all shot (+4) 75 or better in the opening round, played 36 on Tuesday.
The Palmer Cup is Connecticut’s Stroke Play Championship. The event honors Russell C. Palmer, former CSGA Executive Director (1986-1995) and inductee into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame (1997). It is presented by Kota Solutions, a CSGA partner.