Waterbury, Connecticut (May 24, 2021) – Defending champion Rick Dowling and Austin Cilley both posted 3-under 66’s to share the first round lead of the 18th Russell C. Palmer Cup presented by Chris Cote's Golf Shop at the Country Club of Waterbury.
Cilley was among the first players out of the gates on Monday and he set the pace early. “I was driving it really well,” said Cilley. “I got into trouble the first couple of holes but tried to just play it simple, hit it into the middle of the green and two-putt. My game plan was to play as simply as I could.”
The Lake of Isles Golf Club member carded his first birdie of the day on the par-4 2nd hole, and after a string of pars birdied the lone par-5 on the course, the 9th to turn in 2-under 33. Cilley had a disappointing three-putt bogey on the 10th to drop to 1-under but that was his only blemish of the day. Following four consecutive pars Cilley jarred his third birdie of the day on the par-4 15th and then capped his round with a birdie on the par-4 closing hole.
“I hit my best drive of the day of the 18th,” said Cilley. “I only had 91 yards left and I was able to leave myself a downhill left to right putt and knocked it right in."
Cilley is looking to build off a successful 2020 season where he recorded a pair of top-five finishes. First, he was fifth at the Four-Ball Championship before recording a fourth-place showing at the Connecticut Mid-Amateur.
“Overall, I think that I held it together. Going into tomorrow I am just going to try and keep it simple and hit fairways and greens, hopefully roll in a couple of more putts than today and see what happens,” Cilley said.
By the time reigning champion Rick Dowling (EClub of Connecticut) tapped in for par on the final hole the wind had picked up making conditions more difficult for the late wave. Level-par after seven holes Dowling stuffed his tee shot on the par-3 8th to 10 feet to move to 1-under and kick start the remainder of his round.
“I was staying patient and visualizing each shot,” Dowling said. “I was picking my target and just sticking to it. This place can visually mess with you but I hit the ball where I wanted to and stayed patient.”
Two shots behind Cilley as he made the turn Dowling picked up right where he left off in last years final round on the back nine when he fired a flawless 4-under 30. Following a par on the 10th to start the inward nine he hit a low spinner in tight on the par-4 11th to set up a birdie. The rest of the round was a grind for Dowling with six pars and a gift birdie on the par-4 16th thanks to a hard breaking 30-footer.
“Tomorrow is going to be a long day,” Dowling said. “But my mindset is the same as today. I just have to stay patient and anything can happen.”
Highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 9th Joseph Ensign (TPC River Highlands) is in a tie for third at 1-under along with Chris Gatcomb (Wallingford Country Club) while 2018 champion Brian Ahern (Wampanoag Country Club) battled his way to a level-par 69 to position himself in fifth place.
Other notables include 2015 champion Ben Day (New Haven Country Club) tied for sixth at 1-over. In his first CSGA round following his freshman year at Virginia, Chris Fosdick (Wallingford Country Club) is 2-over in a tie for ninth, while Dick Stevens (EClub of Connecticut), Cody Paladino (Wampanoag Country Club), Jamie Sheltman (Alling Memorial Golf Club), and Dave Szewczul (TPC River Highlands) are all six shots back at 3-over - 72.
The top-39 and ties advanced to Tuesday’s second and third rounds. Play on Tuesday will begin at 7:30 a.m. off the 1st and 10th tees with the final round to follow in the afternoon.
About the Russell C. Palmer Cup
The Russell C. Palmer Cup, presented by Chris Cote’s Golf Shop, is the state’s premier stroke-play championship. It comprises 54 holes, with a cut to the low 39 and ties after round one, and thirty-six holes on day two. It is named for Russell C. Palmer, former CSGA Executive Director (1986-1995) and inductee into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame (1997). Mr. Palmer’s numerous accomplishments include establishing the use of GHIN throughout CSGA member clubs and initiating the purchase of the “Connecticut Golf House” which for 30 years has served as the home of the CSGA.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Russell C. Palmer Cup presented by Chris Cote’s Golf Shop is one of 19 championships conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association. The CSGA functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. Founded in 1899, it is the country’s oldest state golf association and conducts over 60 Championships, Qualifiers, and One Day Tournaments throughout the year. For more information, visit csgalinks.org.