Paladino pushes through to win New England Amateur title

MILFORD — All of the runner-up finishes and near-misses in national qualifying events can frustrate even the most unflappable of golfers, which Cody Paladino normally is.

His latest near miss was finishing one shot short of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur on Monday. So he wasn’t in the best frame of mind heading into the New England Amateur the following day.

But Paladino was still up to the task, putting himself in contention right away. He took the lead early in the third round Thursday and never relinquished it.

Paladino won the 92nd edition of the New England Amateur by a stroke at Great River Golf Club.

“To have such an awesome year last year with all of these close calls and not be able to put my hands on a trophy, then to start this year doing the exact same thing at the Connecticut Amateur, for that final putt to go in the hole (Thursday), to know that I won, even with all of that disappointment, I somehow felt vindicated,” Paladino said.

Paladino shot 69 to finish with a three-round total of 10-under 206.

Paladino last won a state major event came in 2015 at the Connecticut Open, when he was a professional. Paladino gave up the pro life a few years later, then applied for and regained his amateur status.

Last year, Paladino finished second or tied for second in the Connecticut Amateur, the Connecticut Mid-Amateur and the Palmer Cup. He lost in the Connecticut Amateur final again this year — to the same opponent, Chris Fosdick, on the same hole (36th) — and fell short in sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open. Then came the U.S. Amateur qualifier on Monday.

“I felt that same hollow feeling of being so close, yet being so far away,” Paladino said. “Before the tee time (Tuesday), I shifted mentally to get ready and excited to play.”

Paladino trailed Kevin Marcoux of Massachusetts, the 2019 New England Amateur champion, by a shot after two rounds. But Marcoux bogeyed the first hole and never recovered, shooting a 78 to finish in a tie for sixth place.

Paladino’s chief contender ended up being a rising sophomore for the UConn men’s golf program. Caleb Manuel of Maine birdied 13 and 15, then rolled in an 8-foot eagle putt on the par-5 17th to get to 9-under for the championship, one behind Paladino.

“I had 270 yards to the flag, the ball was below my feet. I closed my stance and I turned on a hybrid. It landed 30-40 yards short and rolled up to 8 feet,” Manuel said.

Manuel missed a 15-foot birdie attempt on the final hole that would have ended up putting him into a sudden-death playoff with Paladino.

“If you told me I was going to shoot 9-under on the last two days, I would have taken it,” said Manuel, who finished third in 2020. “I knew 9- or 10-under was going to win at the beginning of the day. I gave myself a chance.”

Paladino, who plays out of Wampanoag CC, made a great birdie on the difficult fourth hole: punching a 6-iron second shot underneath a tree and sitting in fescue grass down the fairway to 15 feet.

He then hit iron shots close on 12 (3 feet) and the downhill par-3 15th hole, playing under 100 yards (2 feet) that got him to 10-under.

Paladino normally likes to know where he stands and he had an inkling he was either close or in the lead throughout the back nine. But it wasn’t until after his second shot on 18 that he asked Tom Rosati — the teaching professional at Great River GC and Paadino’s swing coach — in the fairway what he needed to do.

Rosati told him he needed two putts to win.

Paladino, 32, becomes the first state player to win the New England Amateur since John VanDerLaan in 2014 and the first to win the event in Connecticut since J.J. Henry won it at New Haven CC in 1998. Paladino’s older brother Brent won the title in 2007.

Nick Waddington (Manchester CC) was the second-highest finisher from the state, tying for sixth with Marcoux at 2-under 214.

92nd New England Amateur

(at Great River GC)

Final results

Cody Paladino (Wampanoag CC), 66-71-69-206; Caleb Manuel (Maine), 72-67-68-207; Jack Brown (New Hampshire) 70-68-70-208; Matt Parziale (Massachusetts), 70-69-71-210; Owen Quinn (Massachusetts), 66-73-73-212; Nick Waddington (Manchester CC), 71-77-66-214; Xavier Marcoux (Massachusetts), 69-67-78-214; Liam Gill (Massachusetts), 73-74-69-216; Michael Arsenault (Maine), 74-72-70-216; Jared Nelson (Vermont), 74-71-71-216; Brian Foley (Massachusetts), 71-74-71-216; Rich Dowling (Golf Performance Center), 72-71-73-216; Joe Harney (Massachusetts), 72-70-74-216; Anthony Burnham (Maine), 73-69-74-216.

Other Connecticut finishers

Mike Kennedy (New Haven CC), 71-71-75-217; Ben Day (New Haven CC), 74-72-72-218; Jamie Sheltman (Alling Memorial GC), 72-71-75-218; Chris Ayers (Goodwin GC), 69-78-72-219; Tom Dallahan (Hartford GC), 72-76-75-223; Joe Ensign (TPC River Highlands), 73-75-75-223; Jack Woods (Ridgewood CC), 81-67-75-223; Matt Chroches (Hartford GC), 76-73-76-225; Alex Gu (unattached), 73-77-76-226; Austin Cilley (Lake of Isles), 69-82-76-227; Chris Durocher (Great River GC), 71-78-78-227; Rich Stevens (unattached), 76-74-81-231.