Dave Szewczul of Tunxis Plantation Country Club added to his impressive resume Thursday by capturing the 8th Senior Match Play Championship, presented by Johnson Brunetti, at The Farms Country Club. Szewczul, the medalist and overall number one seed, defeated Jon Groveman of Connecticut Golf Club by a score of 2-Up.
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 consecutive days, culminating in an eighteen-hole final match.
The finals proved to be Szewczul’s toughest test yet, with both Szewczul and Groveman playing phenomenal golf and trading birdies and eagles throughout the day. Although Szewczul narrowly led through much of the afternoon, it was a match that could have swung either way at any point. As soon as Szewczul looked like he would pull away, Groveman would return the favor with a tremendous shot or putt of his own.
Standing in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 12th, Szewczul’s lead was one. After hitting a hybrid from 220 yards to a mere twelve feet from the hole, and subsequently sinking the birdie putt, it appeared momentum was in his favor. However, Groveman would rebound with a clutch par save on the par-313th to pull back within one.
Both players had their chances for birdie on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes, but Groveman saw his best chance slip by on the 17th. Still down by one, he hit his approach shot to ten feet from the hole, but narrowly missed his birdie opportunity to square the match. Needing a birdie on the last after Szewczul calmly hit his approach shot to the middle of the green, Groveman failed to hit the green. When his chip came up just short of the hole, Szewczul knocked in a three foot putt for the victory and his fourth Senior Match Play title.
“It was really a great test of golf out there, and I think the course was the real winner,” said Szewczul in his Champion’s speech. “I really did a good job of controlling the distance on my iron shorts and staying below the hole, which really made the difference for me. There’s no question the course proved that it can provide a very challenging test for the state’s top players, and I’m just thankful have come out as the Champion.”
In the four rounds of match play, which amounted to a total of sixty seven holes, Szewczul only trailed for six of them. Even more remarkable, he recorded twelve birdies and an eagle against just seven bogies.
Szewczul has now won the Senior Match Play an incredible four times (2010, 12, 13 and 14) in the eight years since the inception of the event. In the one hundred-fifteen year history of the CSGA, it is only the sixth time that any player has won the same CSGA amateur championship four or more times. Szewczul now shares that distinct honor with Richard Siderowf (Amateur 1955, 60, 65, 84 and 85), Fred Kask (Connecticut Amateur 1970, 77, 80 and 87), Sam Petron (Senior Amateur 1962, 68-70, 74 and 75), Bill Hermanson (Mid-Amateur 1990-93), and Jeff Hedden (Mid-Amateur 2002, 05, 06 and 09).
Before facing Groveman in the finals, Szewczul took on one of Connecticut’s most accomplished golfers, Rev. William Lee of the Course at Yale. Lee came into the semifinal match having already knocked off a pair of CSGA champions in Bill Torza (2007 Senior Match Play Champion) and Shawn McLoughlin (2000 and 2013 New England Senior Amateur Champion). Even after falling to 4-down with five holes to play, Lee refused to give up. Leaving his second shot short on the 14th hole, Lee holed a thirty yard pitch from in front of the green to pull to within three. However, Szewczul showed why the strongest part of his game is the putter, knocking in a fifty foot putt on the 15th to defeat Lee 4 and 3.
Groveman had to engineer some heroic shot making of his own in his semifinal match against Mike Natale of East Mountain GC to reach the final match. After trailing for much of the match, Groveman found himself 1-down standing on the 17th tee, having made a series of clutch par saves to keep within range. After hitting his drive down the right side of the fairway, Groveman calmly hit his approach on the par-4 17th to four feet and rolled in his birdie to square the match. Natale, the #2 seed, drove it poorly on the long and challenging 18th, which opened the door for Groveman. He played the hole to perfection, eventually needing only 2-putts on the final green to seal the victory.
The CSGA Championship Season continues Monday, June 16th when it hosts the 112th Connecticut Amateur Championship at Lake of Isles. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend. For more information, visit csgalinks.org
Dave Szewczul, Tunxis Plantation CC def. Jon Groveman, Connecticut GC, 2-Up
Dave Szewczul, Tunxis Plantation CC def William Lee, Course at Yale, 4 and 3
Jon Groveman, Connecticut GC def. Mike Natale, East Mountain GC, 1-Up