Peter Ballo, 21, of Woodway Country Club and Cody Paladino, 24, of Wethersfield Country Club, each won their semifinal match Friday to advance to the 36-hole final of the 111th Connecticut Amateur Championship at New Haven Country Club.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Connecticut Amateur Championship is one of the nation’s oldest state amateur golf championships. The challenging format tests the state's best amateur golfers over two rounds of stroke play to determine the low thirty-two match play qualifiers. Two rounds of match play each day culminate in a thirty-six hole final to crown the top amateur player in Connecticut.
Ballo, a rising senior at Sacred Heart University, outlasted Lawrence Haertel, Jr. of Round Hill Club to win his semifinal match by a margin of 3 and 2. Ballo began his match 1-Up through four holes before winning five straight holes to take a 6-up lead heading to the 11th tee.
“I really played great in the middle stretch and the birdies on 7, 8 and 10 were huge,” Ballo said. However, Haertel refused to go down without a fight, winning Holes #12, #13 and #14 to close the gap to 3-down with four to play. As Ballo said, “It’s really easy to get ahead of yourself when you have a big lead. I got a little lackadaisical and made a couple of bad swings that cost me three holes.”
Ballo would ultimately recover, rallying to make a pair of pars on Holes #15 and #16, which was enough for the victory and a hard-earned trip to the finals.
In the other semifinal match, Paladino defeated Paul Schaeffer of Rockledge Golf Club by a decisive margin of 7 and 6. Although the term “perfect” is rarely used in golf, it would be well used when referring to Paladino’s start to the match. He won the first six holes of the match and seven of the first eight to make the turn at 6-up.
“Right from the start, I played really solid and didn’t miss hitting a green the entire match,” Paladino said. “When he [Schaeffer] made a few mistakes, I was able to take advantage of my opportunities and keep the momentum going.”
Schaeffer, who was playing in his first Connecticut Amateur Championship, had quite an impressive run to the semifinals. He knocked off the number two seed Chris Wiatr in his first round match, and defeated Benjamin Day in the Quarterfinals, who was seeking to capture the Amateur title on his home course. “After the first nine holes of stroke play, I really played great all week, and I had such a great time out there,” Schaeffer said. Although disappointed with the end result, it was nonetheless an impressive performance for the 29-year old.
Looking ahead to the 36-hole final, both Ballo and Paladino are looking to capture their first Connecticut Amateur Championship. Paladino, who most notably made the finals of the 2007 US Public Links Final, is looking for redemption after narrowly losing to Tommy McDonagh in the 2006 Connecticut Amateur Finals at Torrington Country Club. A mere seventeen years of age at the time, Paladino took a 4-up lead after the morning round before eventually falling in 39 holes. As Paladino recalls, “I was up by such a large margin that I got a little too comfortable out there. My primary objective tomorrow is to just stay focused on the shot at hand and to pace myself.”
Saturday will mark the first Connecticut Amateur Final for Ballo, who successfully qualified for match play the past two years before losing his first round match. His semifinal match marked the first time he finished a match before reaching the eighteenth hole, something that was much welcomed heading into the grueling 36-hole match. “I’m just going to go out there looking to stay patient and make a lot of pars.” Ballo said. “With so many holes to play tomorrow, it’s really important to take it one hole at a time and to not get down on yourself.”
The 36-hole championship final is set for Saturday, with the winner being crowned the 111th Connecticut Amateur Champion. A live, shot-by-shot broadcast of the final match will be available at CTAmateur.com.
Peter Ballo, Woodway CC def. Lawrence Haertel Jr., Round Hill Club, 3 and 2
Cody Paladino, Wethersfield CC def. Paul Schaeffer, Rockledge CC, 7 and 6
6:50 a.m. – Peter Ballo, Woodway CC vs. Cody Paladino, Wethersfield CC