Links: Final Results
Connor O’Brien, 15, of Oak Hills Golf Club took a 3-up lead after 3-holes in the final match of the 72nd Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship and held on to win 1-up over 15-year-old Evan Grenus of TPC River Highlands at the 72nd Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship presented by Cobra Puma Golf is open to all Connecticut junior golfers who have not reached their eighteenth birthday by the start of the event. The challenging format tests the state's best junior golfers over a single round of stroke play to determine the low thirty-two match play qualifiers. Two rounds of match play each day culminate in an eighteen-hole final to crown the top junior player in Connecticut.
After a series of weather delays postponed the semifinal matches to Thursday morning, both O’Brien and Grenus advanced after winning their respective matches. Both players needed extra holes, with O’Brien outlasting defending champion John VanDerLaan of Heritage Village Country Club in twenty-one holes.
Both players began the 18-hole championship final seeking their first Junior Amateur championship. Grenus, who fired a three under-par round of 68 earlier in the week to claim medalist honors, was a Quarterfinalist in last year’s Connecticut Junior and was hoping to add his name to the record books. Only five people in the event’s extensive history had claimed medalist honors in qualifying and then went on to capture the match play championship.
Pictured: Connor O'Brien, Oak Hills Golf Club
O’Brien wasted no time at the start of the 18-hole championship final. He made birdies on two of his first three holes to take a 3-up lead after three over Grenus.
“Getting off to that kind of a start was key, but I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to keep up that pace,” said O’Brien. “Evan is a tremendous player and I had to figure he was going to make a comeback at some point in the match.”
Indeed, Grenus refused to go away quietly. The players traded birdies on the front nine and after eight holes, O’Brien’s lead had dwindled to 1-up. Another birdie by Grenus on Hole #12, followed by a 3-putt bogey on #13 by O’Brien, and the match was All Square with six holes to play.
The pivotal point in the match came on the fifteenth hole, a short 150-yard par-3. Both players hit the green, and after Grenus missed his eighteen foot birdie attempt, O’Brien calmly rolled in his fifteen foot putt to reclaim the lead.
“That putt was a huge boost for me. In both my matches today, I was able to make a big putt on that hole to change the momentum of the match.”
Grenus answered with an eagle on Hole #16 after hitting his second shot to a mere eight feet from the hole. However, O’Brien went on to birdie the 17th hole to take a 1-up lead into the last hole. After both players missed the green, he calmly pitched his third shot to a mere three feet away. When his par putt struck the center of the cup, O’Brien raised his hands triumphantly as the 72nd Junior Amateur Champion.
The win is O’Brien’s second major victory in three weeks. Earlier this summer, he captured the AJGA Killington Junior Championship in Killington, Vermont, which is regarded as one of the top national junior tournaments in New England.
“It’s really unbelievable,” said O’Brien. “Winning any tournament is a great accomplishment, but to be able to win twice already this summer has been really special.”
Despite losing in the final match, the week was a special one for Grenus, who played tremendous golf over the entire championship. Grenus recorded a round of 2-under par 69 in the final match, one short of O’Brien’s 68, and the match will go down as one of the more exciting finals in recent history.
“I set goals at the beginning of the year and the beginning of every month. At the top of the list is winning the Connecticut Junior. It’s certainly disappointing to lose, but it’s also been a great week and a great experience.”
With their appearance in the finals of the Connecticut Junior Amateur, both players automatically qualify to play on the New England Junior Team. Connecticut will host the championship on August 14th-16th at Connecticut National Golf Club, and Team Connecticut will look to defend its title after capturing the championship last year.
Shot-by-shot tracking of the final match was broadcast live 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 29th – 31st, when it hosts the 79th Connecticut Open Championship at Torrington Country Club. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend. For more information on Connecticut Open, visit ConnecticutOpen.com.