Links: Final Results
Bruce Kraczkowsky of Blue Fox Run Golf Course knocked off four-time champion Dave Szewczul of Tunxis Plantation Country Club in the final match at Hop Meadow Country Club to capture the 10th Senior Match Play Championship presented by the Lincoln Motor Company.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Senior Match Play Championship is open to Connecticut senior golfers who are fifty five years of age and over by the start of the event. The tournament challenges competitors with a round of stroke play to determine the low sixteen match play qualifiers. Following the qualifying round, four rounds of match play are conducted over two consecutive days, culminating in an eighteen-hole final match.
Kraczkowsky, who shot 75 in the stroke play qualifying round and was the highest seed remaining in the semifinals, faced off against defending champion Bill Hermanson of Black hall Club in his morning match. Both players jockeyed for the upper hand, with Hermanson leading early before Kraczkowsky took the lead heading into the back nine. With the match all square again standing on the 18th tee, Kraczkowsky made a clutch par 5 on the finishing hole to edge the 2015 CSGA Senior Player of the Year, 1 up, and secured his place in the finals.
With Szewczul cruising to victory in his semifinal match over Tom Brett of Tallwood Country Club, both players were looking to make history in the final match. For Szewczul, a win would be his fifth Senior Match Play title, becoming the third player in history that has won the same CSGA amateur championship five or more times, matching Bill Hermanson’s five Connecticut Mid-Amateur titles (1988-91 and 2001) and Dick Siderowf’s five Connecticut Amateur titles (1955, 60, 65, 84 and 85). For Kraczkowsky, it was a chance at etching his name in CSGA history, as he was seeking to capture his first CSGA individual championship.
Kraczkowsky jumped out to an early lead with an opening birdie and never trailed in the match, holding a lead through much of the round until Szewczul pulled even on the 13th hole. After Kraczkowsky drove it into the trees on the par-4 14th, it looked like the momentum was swinging in Szewczul’s favor. However, Kraczkowsky responded with the shot of the match, hitting a remarkable punch shot through the trees onto the putting surface.
“The key shot was definitely on the 14th hole,” said Kraczkowsky. “I hooked the ball left into the trees, and I had to thread the ball underneath a tree to have any chance at salvaging par. The ball ended up on the green and I actually had a look at birdie. It really changed the momentum for me and buoyed me up, thinking ‘Yes, I can do this’.”
After making an extraordinary par on the 14th, Kraczkowsky didn’t make another bogey for the rest of the match, capitalizing on a pair of errant shots from Szewczul to win both the 15th and 16th holes. From there, a par on the 17th hole was all that was needed to secure his first CSGA major championship.
“I was consistent all week and I never got down on myself. I did hit a few bad shots out there but I was able to recover, and I was pretty solid tee to green for most of the day.”
Kraczkowsky’s path to victory was an especially impressive one given the list of names he had to face on his way to the title. Not only did he defeat a pair of Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame inductees in Hermanson and Szewczul in the semifinals and finals, but he also defeated 2014 New England Senior Amateur Champion Jim Romaniello in his opening match, and defeated medalist and #1 seed Scott Newman in his quarterfinal match.
“For me to have won, it’s surreal,” said Kraczkowsky. “In my mind, I was the winner before I teed off this afternoon because I had never made it this far before – I was just excited to be in the final match.”
The victory marks Kraczkowsky’s first CSGA major championship, and a win he won’t soon forget. He also takes the lead in the 2016 Dick Siderowf Senior Player of the Year race, earning a total of 400 points for his victory and a 73 point lead over Szewczul.
Bruce Kraczkowsky, Blue Fox Run GC def. Dave Szewczul, Tunxis Plantation CC, 2 and 1
Bruce Kraczkowsky, Blue Fox Run GC def. Bill Hermanson, Black Hall Club, 1 up
Dave Szewczul, Tunxis Plantation CC def. Tom Brett, Tallwood CC, 4 and 3