Links: Final Results
Zach Zaback of TPC River Highlands entered day two of the 13th Russell C. Palmer Cup with a two stroke lead and never looked back, matching his opening round 66 with rounds of 74-67 for an even-par total of 207 and a six stroke victory over Corey Birch of Silver Spring Country Club.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Russell C. Palmer Cup is a 54-hole stroke play competition played at the Country Club of Waterbury on Monday and Tuesday, May 23rd and 24th. Named for former Executive Director of the CSGA and Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame Member Russell C. Palmer, the event features Connecticut's top amateur golfers competing for the state's amateur stroke play title. The par-69 Donald Ross layout was originally founded in 1899 and was set up to play at a total of 6,550 yards for the competitors.
A total of forty-one competitors made the cut at 76 (+7) or better, with Zaback holding on to a two stroke lead after an opening round of three under-par 66. Overnight rain of nearly one half inch, combined with thick rough and fast greens made the par-69 layout play especially difficult in the morning round of the 36-hole finale. The round two scoring average jumped over three strokes from 73.3 to 76.7, with only two players shooting under 72.
Among those who faced some early challenges was Zaback, but despite shooting a five over-par 74 in the morning, his two stroke advantage over Dave Szewczul and Monte Mullen remained in-tact.
“I tried to approach the afternoon round with a new mindset,” said Zaback. “I didn’t play very well in the morning but I still had the lead so I tried to play a little more relaxed. I was finally able to get some key putts to fall towards the middle of the round and I got into a good rhythm.”
After an opening bogey on the par-3 third hole, Zaback saw his lead shrinking as Eric Dietrich of the Farms CC was making an early move. But the 2014 CSGA Player of the Year rebounded like a true champion, making birdie on five of his next eight holes to seize control of the tournament.
“Eric [Dietrich] was making a charge early so I knew I had to keep playing well, but making the three birdies on #9, 10 and 11 definitely helped me feel more comfortable out there, “ said Zaback.
Indeed, his string of birdies extended his lead to eight strokes, and while there was still golf to be played, there wasn’t much doubt who the eventual champion would be by the back nine. A closing round of two under-par 67 for Zaback tied the low final round and secured a remarkable six stroke victory for the twenty-two year old from Farmington, Conn. After missing out on a playoff for the title by a single stroke last year, Zaback sealed redemption in convincing fashion.
“It’s really special for me to win this event. I’ve been so close to winning the Palmer Cup the last couple of years, playing in the final group and missing the playoff by one last year. That really got me motivated for the tournament this year. I love the course and I put in a lot of practice beforehand, so it’s really special to finally come through and win here.”
Zaback becomes the first player to go wire-to-wire to capture the Russell C. Palmer Cup since Cody Paladino won the title in 2013. With his win, Zaback also becomes just the third player to win both the Russell C. Palmer Cup, which is considered the state’s stroke play amateur championship, and the Connecticut Amateur Championship, which is contested over match play, equaling Paladino (2013) and Mark Farrell (2004 / 2001). The recent University of Connecticut graduate will have a chance to capture his second title in just a few weeks when the Connecticut Amateur heads to Wethersfield Country Club on June 13-17. Zaback won the Connecticut Amateur Championship in 2014, highlighting a season that saw him earn the CSGA Player of the Year honors.
Finishing runner-up to Zaback was Corey Birch of Silver Spring CC, who equaled the low final round with a closing 67 to post a three round total of 213 (+6). Connor Looney of TPC River Highlands finished third with rounds of 71-73-71—215 (+8), and Geoff Vartelas (Lyman Orchards Golf Club) finished in fourth after also shooting a two under-par 67 in the final round.
The Country Club of Waterbury has now hosted the Russell C. Palmer Cup eight times in the history of the event, the most of any club, and has also hosted ten Connecticut Amateur Championships and the 2005 Connecticut Open Championship.
The CSGA Championship Season continues on Tuesday, May 31st with the start of the 18th Connecticut Women’s Open Championship, being contested over two days at Round Hill Club in Greenwich, Conn. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend. For more information, visit CTWomensOpen.com.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Russell C. Palmer Cup is one of 18 championship tournaments 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 50 Championships, Qualifiers and One-Day Tournaments throughout the year. For more information, visit our website at csgalinks.org.