Farmington (September 30, 2020) If there’s such a thing as muscle memory, then maybe there’s trophy memory, too.
Former champion Richard Stevens won the Senior Amateur Wednesday at the Country Club of Farmington by remembering that anything can happen in amateur golf, and by grinding to the finish, even when the championship appeared out of reach.
He birdied the 17th, got up and down for par on the 18th, and then watched Rick Malafronte of Indian Hill Country Club, playing with a two-shot lead, double bogey the last, Farmington’s 209-yard par 3. The two then played the same hole in a playoff, with Stevens parring it again to win his second Senior Amateur title. His first coming in 2007 at Wethersfield Country Club.
Malafronte, who has not won a CSGA title but who is one of the steadiest players in state competition, led the final round almost from the start. After nine holes, he was level par for the championship, where he’d begun the round, and two up over Stevens and Dave Jones of Mohegan Sun Golf Club. He played even until the final hole.
“Believe me, I know how bad that feels,” said Stevens of the finish, “For me, my goal all day was not to make any bogeys and let the birdies take care of themselves.”
He made two of each, shooting 71—the best round of the day—and finishing as he’d started, at two over. Malafronte shot 73 thanks to the final double, also finishing at plus two.
“Honestly, I did not feel nervous over the [final] tee shot,” said Malafronte. “I might have been a little quick, but I wasn’t nervous. It was just a bad swing. And hey, I only had to two-putt to win it.”
He left his 25-foot-par attempt four feet under the hole and missed. In the playoff, his hole-high tee shot was also left, and he was unable to get up and down. Stevens hit the front of the green and two-putted from 35 feet.
Jim Lawler of Mohegan Sun Golf Club, the only player under par Tuesday at 69 (-2), slipped to 81, and finished at 150 (+8), tying fifth with Brooklawn’s Mike Hooper, who shot 76 today. Jones shot 74 and finished third at five over. Steven Fisch of Bull’s Bridge Golf Club shot 74 today and finished fourth alone at plus seven. At nine were Dave Szewczul, Kevin Foster, Tom Yellin, Randy Rizy and Bill Hermanson, the defending champion.
By the 14th hole Wednesday, it was a tournament of two men—Malafronte and Stevens—both at even par for the day and securely ahead of Jones, Lawler and Fisch. Stevens parred the 375-yard 15th, before Malafronte, playing behind him, bogeyed it after pulling a short-iron into the left green side bunker from an awkward, downhill lie in the fairway. But Stevens bogeyed the 430-yard 16th when his hybrid shot rolled down the false front and he was unable to get up and down. Malafronte parred there, with a brilliant hybrid directly at the hole, then two putting from above it. While he was parring 16, however, Stevens hit a “7-iron-equivalent” hybrid to 10 feet and converted for birdie on 17. Malafronte hit his drive in the middle of the fairway at 17, experiencing a bit of “angina” as he put it, when the ball plugged and could not be found right away. It was found, he hit his second to about 15 feet and made a routine par. They were back to two apart.
And so it came down to the final hole. With Stevens in the group ahead getting up and down from about 45 feet to the back-tier hole location, it was up to Malafronte to make at least a bogey. “I played really well today. But you have to play them all,” said a gracious Malafronte, whose trophy moment, one has to believe, will come.
Today went to Stevens, presented the trophy by perhaps Farmington’s greatest golfer, Bill Whedon, now in his nineties, who is famous both for making two holes in one in the same round of the GHO, what is now the Travelers Championship, and for winning an incredible 29 club championships at Farmington.
Talk about trophy memory.