Chris Fosdick rallied to win the 18th Russell C. Palmer Cup in a dramatic final day shooting a 1-over par total to edge runner-up Austin Cilley by one stroke.

HARTFORD, Conn. – It’s less than five months into 2021, and Chris Fosdick keeps adding to his impressive resume.

Fosdick, who recently completed his freshman year the University of Virginia, rallied from a four-stroke deficit entering the final round of a 36-hole windup to win the Russell C. Palmer Cup at the wind-swept Country Club of Waterbury.

Fosdick appeared as if he would have to settle for a decent finish behind defending champion and final-round co-leader Rick Dowling, who opened a five-stroke advantage after shooting a 2-under-par 33 on the front nine of the final round. But Fosdick shot a 2-under 34 on the back side for a closing, 2-under 67 and a 54-hole total of 1-over 208, one better than Austin Cilley (Lake of Isles Golf Course-North Stonington). Dowling hit his drive out of bounds on the 18th hole and made a double-bogey 6 for 73 and third place at 210.

“Last week I had the (NCAA) Regional Championship in Nashville (Tenn.) for Virginia and my iron game wasn’t there at all,” Fosdick said, “and now to have this final round, I felt like I put my game together and it feels really good.”

After shooting even par the first eight holes of the final round, Fosdick began his rally with a birdie on the short ninth, the only par-5 on the course, to get to 2-over for the tournament. He then got hot with his putter, making birdie putts of 20 and 40 feet on the 12th and 14th holes to get within a shot of Dowling.

“I went out and hit a confident drive on the first hole of the final round, hit a decent wedge shot and made a good putt for birdie, and at that point my game felt better than the previous two rounds,” said Fosdick, who plays out of Wallingford Country Club. “I knew if I kept playing like that, I could maybe win this thing.”

Dowling (EClub of Connecticut) began the final round tied for the lead with Cilley at 1-under but shot a 2-under 33 on the front nine for a five-stroke lead. But on the back nine, Dowling, the co-leader after each of the first two rounds, began to struggle. One year after blitzing the back nine with a 4-under 30 in the final round, Dowling stumbled with bogeys on the 10th and 11th to open the door to Cilley and Fosdick, who was playing in the group ahead.

“I had a great front nine, and I was really locked in,” Dowling said. “But on the back nine, all the little things that were going well I just didn’t execute them on the back. I hung in there although I was kind of faltering a little bit.”

When Dowling bogeyed the 15th hole, he fell into a tie with Fosdick. Meanwhile, Cilley moved back into contention after a 3-over 38 on the front nine dropped him six strokes back. After four pars, he hit his tee shot on the 225-yard 14th hole to a foot for a tap-in birdie. Cilley briefly moved into a tie for the lead with Fosdick and Dowling but bogeyed the 17th hole and closed with 72 for 209.

“There are definitely a lot of positives I can take from the week but just some stupid mental mistakes cost me,” Cilley said. “I wasn’t hitting the ball really well today, I was scrambling today, and in the end I was one shot short.”

Fosdick’s charge slowed with a bogey on the 16th hole, but two closing pars gave him the low score of the double-round windup. After bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes, Dowling parred No. 17, but his drive on the 18th ended his hopes when he hit it right out of bounds.

As Dowling made his way up the final hole, Fosdick stood watching above the green, and when Dowling’s approach shot didn’t fall, Fosdick had added the Palmer Cup, the state’s medal play championship, to the CSGA Amateur and Tournament of Champions in 2020 after he was medalist in the 2019 CSGA Junior Amateur and a member of the state junior team.

Fosdick lives in Middlefield and graduated from Xavier High School in Middletown in 2019, when he won the Division I individual state championship and tied for 24th in the PGA of America’s Boys Junior Championship at Keney GC in Hartford. He was a four-time All-State selection, a three-time Southern Connecticut Conference Player of the Year and holds the Wallingford CC course record of 7-under 62.

As a freshman at Florida Southern, Fosdick earned third-team PING All-America honors and was a PING Division II Freshman All-American and All-South Region selection after leading the Moccasins in scoring with a 72-stroke average through 20 rounds. He had two Top-10 finishes, placed in the Top 20 in six of seven tournaments and was twice named Sunshine State Conference men’s golfer of the week.

Fosdick transferred from Florida Southern to Virginia after the 2020 season and had four years of eligibility with the Cavaliers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He played in five tournaments this season, and his 5-under 67 in the third round of the Linger Longer Invitational was the best score for the Cavaliers.

In the CSGA Amateur Championship, Fosdick rallied from 5-down after 16 holes to beat 2020 CSGA Player of the Year Cody Paladino 1 up and will defend that title June 14-18 at Hartford Golf Club. In perhaps the best final in the 119-year history of the event, Fosdick and Paladino each shot 9-under 133 at Shorehaven GC in Norwalk, combining for two eagles and 20 birdies. In the afternoon 18 holes, Fosdick shot 63, one off the course record, and still wasn’t able to clinch the victory until the 36th hole.

Brian Ahern (Wampanoag CC-West Hartford), the 2018 champion, finished fourth in the Palmer Cup at 211, three ahead of Thomas McCarthy (EClub of Connecticut). In the second round in the morning, Cilley made a hole-in-one on the 146-yard eighth hole on the way to a 71. One hour later, Ahern aced the 14th hole in shooting 70.

The tournament is named in honor of Russell C. Palmer, the former CSGA executive director (1986-1995) and an inductee into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame (1997). Palmer’s numerous accomplishments included establishing the use of GHIN throughout CSGA member clubs and initiating the purchase of the “Connecticut Golf House” that has served as the CSGA’s home Palmer moved the association’s office from New Haven to Rocky Hill in 1988.

Worked as sports writer for The Hartford Courant for 38 years before retiring in 2008. His major beats at the paper were golf, the Hartford Whalers, University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball, Yale football, United States and World Figure Skating Championships and ski columnist. He has covered every PGA Tour stop in Connecticut since 1971, along with 30 Masters, 25 U.S. Opens, four PGA Championships, 12 Deutsche Bank Championships, 15 Westchester (N.Y.) Classics and four Ryder Cups. He has won several Golf Writers Association of America writing awards, including a first place for a feature on John Daly, and was elected to the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. He also worked for the Connecticut Whale hockey team for two years when they were renamed by former Hartford Whalers managing general partner Howard Baldwin, who had become the marketing director of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the top affiliate of the New York Rangers.

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