WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – A year ago, Chris Fosdick and Cody Paladino battled through what was arguably the best final in the history of the Connecticut State Golf Association Amateur Championship at Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk.
If anyone believes that’s hyperbole, consider that each finalist shot 9-under-par over 36 holes, and they carded 20 birdies and two eagles between them. Several times birdies didn’t even win a hole, and there were only six bogeys in the match. In the afternoon 18, Fosdick shot an 8-under 63, one off the course record, and still couldn’t clinch victory until the 36th hole in beating his second consecutive former pro after being 5-down after 16 holes.
“Who needs the GHO when you’ve got this,” quipped one spectator, referring to the former name of the Travelers Championship that will be played next week at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
Against that backdrop of brilliance, Fosdick and Paladino renewed their golfing acquaintance 356 days later at Hartford Golf Club, and while the play wasn’t as spectacular on a more difficult course with firmer greens, the finish was arguably even more riveting.
Fosdick made a 30-foot putt on the first hole for the first of three birdies in the first five holes that gave him a lead that he never relinquished, though he was tied twice in the afternoon 18. But he became the first player since Will Strickler in 2007 and 2008 to win back-to-back titles when he made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a second successive 1-up victory. It also was the first time since 1920 and 1921 that the same two competitors met in successive finals.
“I’ve had a good feeling on that (18th) green all week,” said Fosdick, 20, a sophomore at the University of Virginia who plays out of Wallingford Country Club. “I made a similar putt for birdie in the semifinals, and I was fortunate to match the line and the speed. There was this dark spot about the size of a cup probably two cups out right, and I liked the that line.
“This means a lot, which is why I got really pumped up. It was awesome to finish it like that and to the win the Palmer Cup (in May) 0and now this tournament. I know it doesn’t happen very often and to be able to put myself in that position and fighting all the way, it felt really good to be so clutch at the end.”
Paladino, 32, the 2013 champion from Wampanoag CC in West Hartford, could only wonder what might have been AGAIN.
“It’s tough to swallow, probably tougher than than last year because it’s two years in a row that we battled to the final holes,” Paladino said. “When I was 5-down, I just kept thinking about Chris being 5-down last year. I went into the shack out by 13 after I lost the hole, and I just didn’t have control of the ball like I had all week long. And once I had a moment with myself, I was able to start to play better.”
Fosdick when 5-up when he birdied the 13th hole in the morning round, but he bogeyed No. 14 and Paladino birdied the 15th hole to get to 3-down. And Fosdick had only a 2-up lead when he 3-putted the 18th hole from 35 feet, missing a 3-footer for par.
A Paladino three-putt on the first hole in the afternoon gave Fosdick a 3-up lead again. But Paladino won the par-5 fourth when Fosdick hit his second shot out of the bounds, sandwiching par-saving putts of 25 and 20 feet on Nos. 4 and 6. Paladino made a 4-foot birdie putt at the seventh hole and then got even for the first time when Fosdick hit his tee shot over the green on the eighth hole and missed a 6-footer to save par 3.
Fosdick parred the ninth hole to regain a 1-up lead and doubled his advantage with a 2-putt birdie on the par-5 10th. Paladino got within one with a wedge to 3 feet at No. 12, then the duo traded a birdie and three pars on the next four holes. Paladino got even again when he two-putted the par-5 16th hole while Fosdick three-putted from 25 feet, missing an 8-footer to tie.
After leaving a 22-foot birdie try inches short on the par-3 17th, Fosdick sealed the deal on the final hole with a drive, wedge from 141 yards to 18 feet and the clutch final stroke.
“After I got 5-up, I got a little sloppy and my putter got cold, but fortunately I made a few coming in,” Fosdick said. “I didn’t really think about last year because I knew it was going to be a great match. I was nervous early, but then I loosened up. I really wanted to play Cody again because I thought it would be fun, and I’m glad we had another good match.”
Paladino reached the final with a dominating 5-and-4 victory over Adam Friedman (Great River GC-Milford) after he birdied the second playoff hole to defeat 2017 and 2019 champion Rick Dowling (EClub Connecticut) in the quarterfinals earlier in the day. Fosdick advanced to the title match when he parred the third extra hole to defeat 27th-seeded Drew Brennan (Ellington Ridge CC) after cruising to a 7-and-6 win over Jackson Fretty (Greenwich CC) earlier in the day.
Fosdick, Paladino and Dowling are among several leading Connecticut players who will be competing in the prestigious Northeast Amateur that begins Wednesday June 23-26 at Wannamoisett CC in Rumford, R.I.