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Paladino Wins His Third

CSGA (November 15, 2020) Cody Paladino came within five shots of running the table in 2020. 

He was that close to winning the three biggest championships in Connecticut amateur golf, all within the same year:

     The Connecticut Amateur

     The Russell C. Palmer Cup

     The  Connecticut Mid-Amateur

Make it six shots and you can add the Tournament of Champions. Consider that:

  • Paladino was second in the Connecticut Amateur at Shorehaven, losing in the final to Chris Fosdick on the final hole, after shooting nine under par (66-67) in their 36-hole final.
  • Paladino finished tied for second in the Palmer Cup at the Country Club of Waterbury, shooting 67-67-70 and finishing three under par, three back of champion Richard Dowling.
  • He finished second in the Mid-Amateur at Madison when he lost on the second playoff hole to Ben Conroy after the two finished as the only players under par (-4) six shots clear of the rest of the field.
  • He lost the Tournament of Champions at Bull’s Bridge by a shot, 67 to 66, to Fosdick again.

He was just as sharp in team competition, sweeping his singles match at the Julius Boros Challenge Cup at New Haven Country Club and, with teammate Nick Cook, taking 8.5 of 9 points from their professional opponents. 

Close is no cigar and no, Paladino, 31, did not win a tournament this season, but he played at such a high level, and played so consistently, that he earned his third CSGA Dick Tettelbach Player of the Year Award, having won as well in 2006 and 2013. 

In the Player of the Year race, Fosdick finished second.

“I played really solid golf. So am I disappointed in myself?  No. Am I disappointed in the result? Of course.” That was Paladino’s assessment after the Amateur, but it might indeed apply to the entirety of the season, his first back as an amateur after competing for five years on the Latin American and Asian tours. 

In stroke-play rounds this year, Paladino averaged a remarkable 70.25. He made nine birdies each in the Palmer Cup and the Mid-Am. Half of his stroke-play rounds were in the 60s, a third at 70.“I felt like I really controlled my emotions very well. I’ve obviously been at this for a long time,” he said at Shorehaven.

After at incredible amateur career in which he won virtually every amateur honor there was, from being the youngest player ever to win the CT PGA Junior Player of the Year Award at 15 to the Amateur itself, to a runner-up finish in the national Public Links Championship and, as a professional in 2015, the Connecticut Open title, early in his five years of professional golf, the 2020 Player of the Year Award is still gratifying, Paladino says. 

“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication to continuing to play competitive golf,” Paladino told the CSGA’s Sam Dostaler. “When I stopped playing professionally there was a lot of bitterness, a lot of disappointment, a lot of wondering if I’d ever want to play amateur golf, competitive golf again.” Paladino said that he feared that every time he teed it up in amateur competition it might remind him that he hadn’t made it as a pro. “For me that was really hard to sort of grapple with.”

With the counsel of another former professional, Ben Day, Paladino answered that question.“Ben told me before the season that I’d know right away,” said Cody. “And he was right. And based on the Amateur, I loved it. I wanted to keep playing”

The fact that Paladino lost at Shorehaven to a 19-year-old after narrowly defeating a 17-year-old (Ben James) in the quarter-finals, demonstrated to him, he said, that the level of competition in the state had advanced and might serve as even more motivation for him to keep competing. “I think that’s what’s happened in the golf world in general. You see it happening on all the tours and everything, kids coming right out of college and winning on the PGA Tour. I think the level of golf has changed so much in the last 20 or 30 years that if you’re playing a high level of junior golf, you’re playing basically tour-level golf.”

Meaning, of course, that if the 2020 CSGA season accomplished anything, it kept Cody Paladino fully committed to competing here, and gave him at least four good reasons to want to come back in 2021. “Winning Player of the Year is awesome. [But] I’m out there to win, so some of the memories I take away from this year will be…not bitter, but kind of stained,” said Paladino. “To put a positive spin on it, it’s incredibly motivating to me going into the winter and off-season.”

All of which is great news for Connecticut golf. 

It will be a busy 2021 for Paladino and one win is guaranteed. He and fiancé Anna Pfau will marry in October, having postponed their wedding this year due to COVID.