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Palmer Cup, Without Ahern, Returns to Waterbury

Connecticut’s premier amateur stroke-play championship, the Russell C. Palmer Cup, presented by KOTA, a Mohegan LDI Enterprise returns to the Country Club of Waterbury, its usual home, on May 20-21.

Without its defending champion.

Brian Ahern, who won last year’s Palmer Cup, year, is out recovering from back surgery.

That leaves an opportunity for some of the young guns who made noise at the Country Club of Farmington last May but who ultimately came up short:

 —Jackson Fretty, the Greenwich High School phenom who shot the low opening round, 68, which also tied the low round of the championship.

—Nick Piersall, a Northeast Conference Star from Bryant University, who finished sixth and went on to make the quarterfinals in the Amateur at Waterbury the following month.

—Austin Rupp, No. 1 at RPI, who finished 11th last year, is back, too.

—Elias Gross, the University of Hartford junior who made the Connecticut Amateur finals at Waterbury last June.

—And young John Abbott, the 2018 Public Links Champion from Timberlin.

On the other hand, the successor to last year’s “mid-am” winner—Ahern was 42—may well come from that older crowd again. Consider:

—The only other returning player from the 2018 Palmer Cup who finished under par last year and finished fourth, Player of the Year Ben Conroy, will compete.

—2018 Senior Amateur Champion Ray Underwood of Torrington is here.

—Hall of Fame member who has won everything but a Palmer Cup and like Ahern took a year off to fix his back, Dave Szewczul, returns.

—Szewczul’s longtime partner at the Two Man Championship, and winner of practically every Connecticut championship, Bill Hermanson will play.

—Ben Day, who won the Palmer Cup in 2015 and who will, with brother Dan, compete this month in the U.S. Four-Ball, is in the field.

—Kyle Nolin, the 2016 Public Links champion, is back.

It’s a field that feels more major than most majors because so many in the field have won them. Its 41 competitors account for 27 Connecticut major championships!

In short, the 16th Russell C. Palmer Cup is above all unpredictable.

Young gun?

Old hand?

We’ll see.