Connecticut Amateur Champions: Ben Conroy & Autumn Serruta

Ben Conroy lines his winning putt at the 116th Connecticut Amateur besting Elias Gross, 7-6, at Country Club of Waterbury.

Connecticut crowned two of its match-play champions in major championship fashion on Friday.

In the 116th Connecticut State Golf Association Amateur Championship at the Country Club of Waterbury, Ben Conroy rolled past Elias Gross 7 and 6 in the scheduled 36-hole match.

And it was much of the same in the Connecticut Women’s Golf Association final at the Golf Club of Avon. In the championship division, Autumn Serruta of the host club lost the first hole and then won the third through the seventh on the way to a 5-and-3 victory over Mim Schreck (Oronoque Village CC-Stratford) for her second consecutive title. In the Founders Cup final, Suzanne Harris (Hop Meadow CC-Simsbury) routed Nancy DeLuca (Brownson CC-Shelton), 6 and 5.

Conroy’s victory enabled him to exorcise several demons. Conroy, who was 2-under for 30 holes in the final, was runner-up in the 2012 Amateur, 2013 Connecticut Open and 2017 Mid-Amateur, the last two in playoffs.

“I definitely drew off that,” Conroy said. “It changed my attitude. I knew my game was good enough to be a champion, but I think in the past I wanted it so bad and tried so hard to make it happen that I almost tried too hard to make it happen.”

Conroy was inspired by 1999 Amateur champion Brian Ahern, 42, winning the Palmer Cup last month.

“There are lot of great young college players out here,” Conroy said. “(University of Hartford sophomore) Elias played great today. He’s a terrific player. But Brian’s win sort of made me think one of these weeks was going to be my week.”

As Conroy had said on Thursday, when he beat medalist and defending champion Evan Grenus of the University of Connecticut, “Score one for the Mid-Ams!”

Friday, Conroy took a lead that he never relinquished with a par on the difficult second hole and then made five birdies on the way to a 5-up lead after 18 holes. Gross, meanwhile, hit only four fairways, and none until the 10th hole.

“This is by far the most golf I’ve ever played over a few days,” Gross said. “So there’s probably the fatigue factor, and I’ve never been in a spot quite this big, so I’m sure that played into it as well.”

Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Conroy fought a possible fatigue problem by taking a caddie for the first time all week after carrying his bag until Friday.

“I knew my game was there,” said Conroy, who briefly turned pro after college and then petitioned to have his amateur status reinstated last year. “My thought process all week was to make the other guy beat me. Don’t do anything to hand it to him.”

Autumn Serruta defeated Mim Schreck, 5-3, to win the 2018 Connecticut Women’s Amateur Championship at the Golf Club of Avon.

His biggest challenge Friday might have been sitting on a 5-up lead between rounds.

“There was a point at lunch, I was like, I can’t wait to get back out there,” Conroy said. “The more I sit here and think about it, the more I’m going to work up my nerves. I was really happy to make a birdie on one [to go six up] in the second round, that kind of got me back into the swing of things.”

A conceded birdie on the par-3 12th in the afternoon sealed the victory.

Championship play continues Saturday with the first round of the Hartford Women’s Open at Goodwin Park Golf Course in Hartford. The final round is Sunday at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford. First prize for the pros is $3,000.

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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