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Cody Paladino Wins 111th Connecticut Amateur

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Cody Paladino, 24, of Wethersfield Country Club, took a 3-Up lead into the afternoon of the 36-hole final and never looked back, posting a 3 and 1 victory on Saturday over 21-year-old Peter Ballo of Woodway Country Club to capture the 111th Connecticut Amateur Championship.

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.

The win is Paladino’s second CSGA championship of the 2013 season, after capturing the 10th Russell C. Palmer Cup earlier this year. “After winning the Palmer Cup earlier this year, I knew that was validation that I could perform in competition,” said Paladino. “This win proves that I can play well over an entire week, even when the going gets tough.”

Paladino, a recent graduate of Baylor University, was 1-down to Ballo through six holes in the morning before winning Holes #7, #8, #12 and #14 to take a 3-Up lead. Ballo had a chance to close the lead to two after reaching the par-5 18th in two, but narrowly missed his birdie putt to win the hole.

“Being down to Cody after the morning, I knew I had to come out and play really well in the afternoon to have a chance,” Ballo said. “I made a great birdie on the second hole, which was a huge boost for me, and I was able to battle back.”

Despite the morning deficit, Ballo was able to capitalize on a couple of crucial mistakes by Paladino on the front nine of the afternoon and pulled all square with Paladino standing on the tee of the 27th hole. Seemingly, the momentum has swung in Ballo’s favor after trailing for the majority of the match.

However, Paladino refused to be flustered. “Being 3-up at the break, I felt great but I knew that Peter would come out swinging in the afternoon,” Paladino said. “After the eighth hole when he pulled all square, I had to have a serious talk with my caddie Keith and collect my thoughts.”

Paladino hit the shot of the match on the par-3 9th hole, the 27th of the match.  He hit a 7-iron to within four feet of the hole for a crucial birdie and took a 1-up lead heading into the final nine, one he would never relinquish.

After a pair of pars on the 15th hole, Paladino, still 1-up, delivered a powerful blow, hitting his approach shot on the difficult 16th hole to within six feet, and needing just two putts to win the hole after Ballo missed the green. Paladino was able to hit the green on the par-3 17th and Ballo, needing to birdie, overshot the flag. After his par attempt failed to drop, the match was Paladino’s.

“Reflecting back on the past few years, it feels amazing to be playing great golf again and have my confidence back. It was such a special week and such a pleasure to be at New Haven CC, and winning today just made the whole experience that much better.”

Despite not winning the championship, it was Ballo’s first appearance in the finals and a tremendous accomplishment for the rising senior of Sacred Heart University.

“It feels great. This is the furthest I’ve ever gone [at the Connecticut Amateur] and it was definitely a good learning experience for me. This tournament is going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the summer, so overall I feel really good about the week.”

With his win, Paladino becomes only the second player in CSGA history to capture both the Russell C. Palmer Cup and the Connecticut Amateur, and the first to win both in the same year. Paladino has a busy summer of amateur tournament lined up, including the 79th Connecticut Open, which will be played later this summer at Torrington Country Club. Paladino will look to become the first amateur since Jeff Hedden to win the title as an amateur.

The CSGA also made history Saturday by introducing the first ever shot-by-shot tracking system for the final match. The entire 36-hole final was broadcast shot-by-shot courtesy of ShowMeGolfers, and spectators across the state were able to watch the match through the Live Round Tracker. The innovative system tracked each player’s position on the course and included stats such as driving distance, fairways hit and greens in regulation.

The CSGA is back in action July 8th-11th, when it hosts the Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship presented by Cobra-Puma at Watertown Golf Club. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend. For more information on Connecticut Junior Amateur, visit CTJunior.com.