Old Lyme (September 28, 2020) The date was different. The format was different. The temperature was definitely different. But the names around the top of the leaderboard in the Two Man Championship at Black Hall Monday were mostly familiar.
For the longest time, though, it looked like two not-so-familiar names, Kevin Ward of Race Brook and Kevin Newlan of Grassy Hill Country Club, would out-perform them all, finishing early in the day with 98 (-8) in the revised 27-hole format. They shot 34 (-5) in nine holes of Four-Ball, 31 (-5) in nine holes of Scramble, and 33 (-2) in Modified Alternate Shot.
It wasn’t until the final group of the day, on the final hole, in alternate-shot, that Jamie Sheltman of Alling Memorial made a 6-footer, the result of partner Dan Murphy’s clutch 9-iron shot, and those two joined Ward/Newlan as co-champions. It was the second birdie two in the final three holes for Sheltman/Murphy, in each case Sheltman converting a Murphy iron shot. Murphy and Sheltman are Challenge Cup and Tri-State veterans.
Anticipating a late finish with little daylight to spare, the CSGA decided against a playoff and declared that teams tied for first would be co-champions.
Finishing one back of the two winners, also in the final group—after their putt for birdie narrowly missed—were current and former Mid-Amateur Champions Ben Conroy and Mike Kennedy of New Haven Country Club, at 99. Conroy hit it to 12 feet on the final hole, the par-3 ninth, and Kennedy’s putt slipped just past.
The Two Man, normally played in chilly May and comprising 18 holes of Four-Ball competition followed by 18 holes of modified alternate shot, was changed to a 27-hole championship this year to allow for a full field and fewer daylight hours. Temperatures in the high 70s eliminated the usual ski caps, but the usual contenders showed up.
Here’s who Murphy/Sheltman and Newlan/Ward defeated, besides Conroy/Kennedy: Two-time defending champions Rick Dowling and Nick Taylor, who finished at 100 (-6); Black Hall’s perennial club champion, Bill Hermanson and his fellow Hall of Fame partner Dave Szewczul, also at -6; Former Connecticut Amateur and Open champion Cody Paladino and his partner, Brian Ahern, both winners of multiple CSGA championships, also at -6; Seth Jainchill of Keney Park and Steve Wagner of the Country Club of Farmington, at -5.
(For Paladino, his team’s finish all but secured Player of the Year honors for him over 2020 Amateur and Tournament of Champions winner Chris Fosdick.)
Both co-champion teams relied on distance off the tee today at Black Hall, which tends to play longer than it’s 6700 yards.
“We decided that I would hit first all day and get a ball into play,” said Sheltman. “Then Danny [one of the longest drivers in the state] would blast the driver.” It worked. Sheltman rarely missed a fairway and Murphy “drove it better than I have for three years.” They shot 34-32-32, their alternate shot score the lowest of the day. They made nine birdies and a single bogey. Murphy said Sheltman putted extremely well, especially in the second two formats.
Newlan and Ward, in their mid-30s and unlike many in the field not former college golfers, have played as partners for six years. They also used their length as a weapon—in all formats. “I think we just wanted to swing as fast as we could and get the ball as far out there as we could to have short shots into the par 5s,” said Newlan smiling, “and it kinda worked for us. We were having fun, feeding off each other.” They made 11 birdies against only 3 bogeys over the 27 holes.
Given the bunching at the top of the leaderboard after 18 holes—when seven teams were within a shot of the lead, the championship really came down to the often stressful modified alternate shot, in which both partners hit tee shots, one ball is chosen, and players alternate shots from there. That’s what won it for Murphy/Sheltman, who had the best alternate-shot round of the day, and for Newlan/Ward, who had the second-best.