HARTFORD, Conn. – After a stellar amateur career that included time at Baylor University, Cody Paladino had a so-so five years in the professional golf ranks, though he says he thoroughly enjoyed most of the 22 countries that he visited while competing in 125 events on four tours worldwide, including nearly a full season in China.
Paladino turned pro in 2015, but frustration from a lack of consistent success caused him to decide to apply for reinstated amateur status in October 2018 after four seasons on the PGA Tour LatinoAmericana. It was what he called “an excruciatingly tough decision” that reached fruition in April 2020, but he hasn’t regretted it while becoming Connecticut’s No. 1 amateur by far, including an unprecedented run at the start of this year.
Paladino shot 7-under-par in winning the first two Connecticut State Golf Association One-Day Tournaments at Stonington Country Club and Topstone Golf Club in South Windsor. Then despite gusting 20-30 mph winds, Paladino was medalist in the U.S. Open local qualifying at the Golf Club at Oxford Greens to advance to the sectionals for the fifth time in hopes of earning his first berth in the national championship June 16-19 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Then he and fellow reinstated amateur Nick Cook went 9-0 in leading the CSGA to a record fifth consecutive victory over the Connecticut Section PGA in the Julius Boros Challenge Cup at New Haven Country Club last Thursday.
Paladino continued his stellar start to 2022 on Tuesday when he made an astonishing 11 birdies and only one bogey in shooting 10-under 134 in the 36-hole windup of the CSGA Russell C. Palmer Cup at Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford. The sterling 67-67 finish gave Paladino a three-round total of 10-under 206 and an eight-stroke victory over Chris Ayers, who closed with 68-72.
Paladino, 33, of Hartford Golf Club, was tied for ninth and one shot behind co-leaders Jack Junge and Arthur Ouimet after an opening 72 but obliterated the competition with a memorable double-round finish to capture the first CSGA major championship of the year. Ayers, of Goodwin Golf Club in Hartford, finished one stroke ahead of James Sheltman of Wallingford, the only one player to finish under par (71-69—215).
But they were merely also-rans.
“I just kept hitting solid shots and hit a ton of greens in regulation,” Paladino said.
Paladino continued his superior play as the wind increased appreciably as the day progressed.
“It was the best round of golf I’ve ever witnessed,” said Steve Wagner (CC of Farmington), who was paired with Paladino. “And it not for a couple of lip-outs, it could have been even better. Thirteen pars and five birdies in that wind. Incredible.”
Paladino said a 30-foot birdie putt on the first hole was “the spark that I needed, and I just kept telling myself to make more birdies.”
Not surprisingly, Paladino is delighted with his start in 2022 but now focusing on the future.
“I think what’s awesome about the beginning of the year is there’s just so much on the horizon, so many more tournaments ahead, a lot to look forward to. I’m thrilled and looking forward to what comes next,” he said.
But stellar play is now the norm for Paladino, who became a reinstated amateur after talking to close friends and relatives, including some of the Wethersfield Country Club members who had supported his LLC. He joined boyhood friend Kevin Josephson, a good amateur player himself, at Lyle Health, a health industry placement company in Farmington. In October 2019, he married Anna Pfau, a commercial real estate financial officer.
Paladino played the 2019 Connecticut Open as a pending amateur and finished seventh. It was a return to a notable amateur career that had included victories in the CSGA Public Links (2006), Palmer Cup (2013), CSGA Amateur (2013) and Tournament of Champions (2013). He was the CSGA Player of the Year in 2006 and 2013, and in 2007, he finished runner-up at the U.S. Public Links Championship, losing to soon-to-be tour professional Colt Knost. The following year, he was eliminated in the Round of 32 by a young Californian named Rickie Fowler and competed in multiple U.S. Junior Amateurs and U.S. Amateur and finished in the Top 20 in the prestigious Northeast Amateur at Wannamoissett CC in Rumford, R.I.
As a 15-year-old, Paladino was the youngest player to be the Connecticut Section PGA Junior Player of the Year. He also won two Northern Junior Championships, the tournament that he and older brother Brent started to honor their grandfather, Stan Trojanowski, who introduced them to the game. Chuck Lasher and Lindsey Hansen, former pros at Timberlin GC in Berlin, helped the Paladino brothers to refine their games, and Cody then played at Baylor, where as a linguistics major, he was an academic All-American for three years before turning pro.
Not long after returning to the amateur ranks, he was so consistent in pandemic-ridden 2020 that he earned the CSGA Dick Tettlebach Player of the Year without a single victory. But he came within five strokes of winning every CSGA major championship, including runner-up finishes in the State Amateur, losing on the final hole of a 36-hole final against Chris Fosdick, despite shooting 9-under for 36 holes, losing a playoff to Ben Conroy in the Mid-Amateur and seconds in the Palmer Cup and Tournament of Champions.
The near-misses continued in 2021, as Paladino lost in the CSGA Amateur final to Fosdick, fell short in sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open and then failed to qualify for the U.S. Amateur by a stroke. But Paladino’s perseverance was finally realized when he captured the New England Amateur at Great River Golf Club in Milford to become the first state player to win the tournament since John VanDerLaan in 2014 and the first to capture the event in Connecticut since future PGA Tour player J.J. Henry at New Haven CC in 1998. Paladino’s older brother won the title in 2007.
After the New England Amateur victory, Paladino said, “To have such an awesome year last year with all of those close calls and not be able to put my hands on a trophy, then to start this year doing the exact same thing at the Connecticut Amateur, for that putt to go in the hole, to know that I won, even with all of that disappointment, I somehow felt vindicated.”
The victory was Paladino’s first in a stroke-play event since the 2015 Connecticut Open. He later tied for second in the CSGA Mid-Amateur and then capped his impressive season by competing in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, where he reached the Round of 64 in his first USGA appearance since 2010. It all helped Paladino earn a fourth Player of the Year and become the first repeat winner since Jeff Hedden captured the award three times in a row in 2008-10.
Paladino is now well on his way to joining Hedden in those ranks.
SOURCE: Information from the CSGA was included in this story