CSGA (April 11, 2020) Of the many ways this Connecticut golf season will be different, here’s one big positive: Cody Paladino is back.
Paladino, one of the most accomplished amateurs in Connecticut history, spent the past five years pursuing a professional career. He officially regained his amateur status in early April and hopes to play a full schedule CSGA events in 2020. For Connecticut golf, a plus. For Paladino, a bittersweet call.
“It was a very tough decision. It was excruciatingly tough,” Paladino said this week. “But over time the travel, the pressure, constantly being concerned about finances, it takes a toll. And as time went on, the related stress and strain wears on you. ‘Why haven’t I made it?’ You’re feeling so unstable about your life. Does that affect what’s happening on the course? I don’t know. But I know it’s hard to separate the two. And in the end I knew there were other things I wanted to do with my life.”
He made the decision in October 2018 after his fourth season on the PGA Tour LatinoAmericana. In five years as a pro, including events on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, the Korn Ferry Tour, Northeastern tournaments, the Asian Development Tour and nearly a full season in China, and some 70 mini-tour events, Paladino had played 125 tournaments in 22 countries. Four attempts to qualify for the Korn Ferry had come up short. His one victory was his first, at the 2015 Connecticut Open.
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 fine amateur player himself, at Lyle Health, a new health industry placement company in Farmington. He is engaged to be married to fiancé Anna Pfau, a commercial real estate financial officer, in October.
Paladino played last year’s Connecticut Open as a pending amateur, finishing 7th. It was a return to an incredible amateur career that included victories in the Connecticut Public Links (2006), the Palmer Cup (2013), the Connecticut Amateur (2013) and the Tournament of Champions (2013). He was the CSGA’s Player of the Year in both 2006 and 2013. 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). He competed in multiple U.S. Junior Amateur and the U.S. Amateur Championships. He finished top 20 at the prestigious Northeast Amateur Invitational. As a 15-year-old he’d been the youngest player to with the Connecticut Section PGA Junior Player of the Year. He also won two Northern Junior championships, the tournament he and older brother Brent started to honor their grandfather, Stan Trojanowski, who introduced them to the game. Paladino played at Baylor, where as a linguistics major he was three years academic All-American. He turned pro in 2015.
Looking back, Paladino doesn’t think that it was any one part of his game that didn’t measure up. “It came down to consistency. I had a couple of fantastic weeks every year. Some weeks I’d say, ‘Wow this is it. I’ve figured it out.’ I played as well as guys I knew were really good,” mentioning Keith Mitchell, Adam Long (who was his roommate his first year on tour) and Martin Trainer, three young winners on the PGA Tour. “I’d be toe-to-toe one week and the next week I would just not be bringing much to the table.” He considers his first year, 2014, his best as a professional. In the final event of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica Season he needed a top 15 finish to end the year inside the Top 60 on the Order of Merit and keep his card. He shot 67 to finish T14 and 58th on the Order of Merit.
If the competitive stress was difficult, the traveling lifestyle was not. Fluent in Spanish, he took advantage of his travel, especially in Latin America. “I absolutely loved it. Loved to travel. Loved to experience new cultures. There was a pack of guys that stuck together, but for me that was like never leaving the U.S. I loved to go off by myself and just see a market or a mall and talk to people. You learn a lot about yourself when you travel alone.”
Paladino joins Mid-Amateur Champion Ben Day and 2018 Player of the Year Ben Conroy, as well as Massachusetts’ Matt Parziale, as recent professionals to seek reinstatement. A decision that Paladino continues to process. “I mean, this is what I’ve been doing for 25, 26, 27 years. From the time I even knew what a tour player was I wanted to be one. I wanted to play on the PGA Tour, I wanted to win on the PGA Tour. How do I say to myself that I didn’t accomplish that?”
For now, he leaves the answer open. He will play as often as he can this year, including as a member of the CSGA amateur side at Julius Boros Challenge Cup next month, and with Josephson in the Two Man Championship at Black Hall on May 18.
As his other dream endures. “Honestly, I haven’t written it off entirely,” Paladino confessed. “I still think I can do it. I think I have the game. So who knows?” But for now, “It’s nice to think back on it all and feel proud of what I accomplished and was able to experience. The bitterness and disappointment I felt when I first stopped playing has definitely subsided, and I'm incredibly grateful to have had to the opportunity to do what I did.”
Welcome back, Cody.