Farmington, Connecticut (August 30, 2023) – Rick Dowling set the tone for the 36-hole final day of the 36th Connecticut Mid-Amateur with his very first swing. Standing on the tee of the 290-yard par-4 opening hole at the Country Club of Farmington Dowling elected to play aggressively.
On a hole where the majority of players hit an iron or hybrid off the tee, Dowling pulled driver and sent his very first shot of the day hurtling towards a green surrounded by trouble. The decision paid off as Dowling’s ball found the green and resulted in a 25-foot eagle try that was converted turning a one-shot deficit to first round leader Cody Paladino to begin the day into a one-shot advantage.
“I can’t think of a better way to start the day,” said Rick Dowling (Golf Performance Center).
Once in the lead, Dowling would never trail again as he played unshakable golf on his way to winning a third consecutive Connecticut Mid-Amateur.
“It feels great to have won three in a row,” Dowling said. “To win any tournament is awesome. Coming down the stretch of this one was a grind so it means a lot to come out on top.”
Following the eagle on No. 1 Dowling was off and running as he played a nearly flawless second round. With on-and-off rain falling throughout the round, Dowling went to work picking apart the Devereux Emmet design on his way to a 5-under 66 that moved him to 9-under and four shots in front of Paladino who carded an even-par 71 in the second round to remain at 5-under.
With the sun breaking through and a picture-perfect afternoon on tap the stage was once again set for a final round duel between Dowling and Paladino. The two had battled in the final round of the Connecticut Mid-Amateur one year ago and then again in June in the finals of the Connecticut Amateur.
Early in the final round it looked like Dowling would be able to maintain a comfortable lead. Despite some chances for Paladino (Hartford GC), the three-time reigning Dick Tettelbach Player of the Year winner, still trailed by three shots after eight holes.
However, Paladino who owns the CC of Farmington course record at 62 had other ideas. On the 587-yard par-5 ninth Paladino was able to get up and down for birdie while Dowling had to settle for par. All of a sudden the lead was only two as Dowling made the turn at 8-under and Paladino at 6-under.
On the ensuing hole, Paladino found the green of the 525-yard par-5 in two setting up a second consecutive birdie. Meanwhile Dowling hit his second shot through the green and faced a tricky chip for his third. Needing a birdie to hold off the charging Paladino the three-time Connecticut Amateur winner nipped it perfectly setting up a tap-in birdie that returned Dowling to 9-under and kept the lead at two shots.
“I knew (Cody) was going to come on strong (in the final round) so I tried to come out aggressive and follow my game plan,” Dowling said. “But in (the final round) I really just wasn’t making the putts that I was making earlier in the tournament.”
During this stretch, the final member of the last group, Shane Bacon (Brooklawn CC), was making a move as well. After beginning the final round at 3-under Bacon fell to 2-under before birdieing Nos. 6, 9, and 10 to reach 5-under and enter the fray. Bacon, who recently competed in the U.S. Amateur and had a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th in the first round, would birdie No. 17 but ultimately he would settle for a 4-under third-place finish.
As Bacon and the rest of the field tried to keep pace Dowling and Paladino continued to trade blows. Paladino hit the flagstick with his tee shot on No. 12 setting up a birdie that moved him within one shot. On the next hole, the 403-yard par-4 13th, Dowling answered right back with a 20-foot birdie of his own to once again restore his two-shot lead.
“I stole one on No. 13. I had 134 yards (to the pin) and I knew it was going to jump and I didn’t want to come up short but you are also in a tough spot if you go long,” Dowling explained. “I hit a wedge and it landed hole high and came to rest on the back fringe.”
Dowling would give that stroke right back with a bogey on No. 14 as Paladino made a good par save and with four holes remaining the difference was one. The difference remained the same as both players made matching pars on Nos. 15 and 16.
“It certainly felt like a match play situation coming down the stretch,” Dowling said of the battle. “Shane (Bacon) was playing great too and making his way up the leaderboard but it definitely felt back and forth between Cody and I.”
On the 401-yard par-4 17th Dowling and Paladino took different approaches. Paladino playing first elected to challenge the water that juts into the fairway taking driver off the tee. He struck a perfect tee ball and had a wedge into the green. Dowling playing more conservatively found the fairway but was farther back.
Facing a shot into an elevated green Dowling was first to play from the fairway and sent his second shot long and into the fringe. With an opening Paladino, who eagled the hole in the first round and birdied it in the second round, knocked his approach shot to within eight feet.
Dowling, looking to ease his birdie putt close, put too much steam on the putt running it past the hole just inside Paladino’s marker. With a large crowd gathered behind the green the moment of the tournament had come. After fighting and clawing all day long Paladino finally had a chance to tie Dowling. After a lengthy look at the uphill birdie putt, Paladino struck the putt and watched in dismay as it slid by the cup. Paladino would have to settle for a disappointing par.
All eyes now turned to Dowling. Putting on nearly the same line as Paladino Dowling wouldn’t miss as he struck his putt pure and poured it into the bottom of the cup for a par. Dowling would head to the last with a one-shot lead.
The final hole at the CC of Farmington is a diabolical downhill par-3 that measures 209 yards. If players miss short, right, left, or long they can find trouble. With honors Paladino played first and missed the green to the right. Knowing that par would now likely be good enough Dowling landed his tee shot just onto the fringe 30 feet past the cup. Needing to work some magic with his second shot Paladino (-7) came up short on his birdie chip and when Dowling (-9) two-putted for par the trophy was once again his.
“I felt a little weird coming out of the winter but I think that is normal for us northeast golfers,” said Dowling who next year will be looking to match Bill Hermanson’s (1990-1993) record of four Connecticut Mid-Amateur titles in a row. “But for some reason this year it lasted a little longer than usual but I got back into it and winning the Connecticut Amateur was huge. I had a great summer and had a great opportunity to play in a couple of big events and then just to come back here and defend and come out on top is amazing.”
The top five of the 36th Connecticut Mid-Amateur was rounded out by Rick Hayes (Silver Spring CC) and 2017 winner Mike Kennedy (Tashua Knolls GC) both of whom tied for fourth at 3-under.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Connecticut Mid-Amateur is one of 20 championships conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association. The CSGA functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. Founded in 1899, it is the country’s oldest state golf association and conducts over 60 Championships, Qualifiers, and One Day Tournaments throughout the year.