BERLIN – As Kensington's Cody Paladino rounded through holes 15 and 16 of the 4th Annual Stan Trojanowski Memorial Tournament at Timberlin Golf Course Monday, he heard West Cornwall's Daniel Simons, playing two groups in front of Paladino, remained at 4-under. Paladino, playing at 1-under, figured he was out of contention and just wanted to finish strong.
But Paladino did not foresee the events that led to his tying Simons in regulation then birdieing the third playoff hole to win his second Trojanowski overall title. Cody's brother Brent, in his last year of eligibility on the Sierra Mist Junior Golf Tour, won the overall title last year for the tournament named after the brothers' grandfather.
"No, I had pretty much given up after the 16th hole," Paladino said. "I wanted to (finish) birdie-birdie to make it close. I heard Dan was 4-under after 16 and I knew he wasn't going to completely fall apart. I was hoping for a birdie-birdie and shoot a 69 somehow. It was completely unexpected. I just wanted to make the putt on the last hole to tie with Kevin (Josephson, 13-15 age group winner). I was trying real hard to make birdie."
But Simons sliced his drive into the trees on 18 and finished with a two-putt for double bogey. On the other hand, Paladino chipped his second shot on the par-4, 393-yard 18th to the middle of the green. Facing an uphill, 20-foot putt for birdie, Paladino's firm shot landed in the middle of the cup, setting up a three-way playoff for the overall champion, marking the third straight year a playoff was needed to crown a champion.
Paladino shot a 36-34-70 and Simons a 35-35-70 in the 16-17 age division. Josephson posted an early score of 34-36-70 to win the 13-15 age division title, also qualifying for the playoff for the overall title.
"I was excited to be in the playoff. It was a good experience for me," said Josephson, who plays on the boys golf team at Berlin High. "I was hitting the ball well. I hit a lot of greens, made a few putts."
In the playoff, all three parred the par-5, 550-yard first hole, which served as the first playoff hole. Josephson bowed out after the second hole, when he encountered trouble off his drive that skimmed into the treeline on the right side of the second hole. Josephson's out shot stayed low to avoid the overhanging trees and landed 10 yards from the green. His chip shot rang long and he two-putted for a bogey and the other two finished up with pars.
"The (high school golf) season finished up a while ago and I haven't played much since," Josephson said. "This is my first tournament since then. I wasn't disappointed at all."
Paladino, who just finished his sophomore year at Kingswood-Oxford in West Hartford, smashed a 350-yard drive on the straight par-4, 360-yard third hole. His strategy was not to go so long off the tee, but since he started playing with a new set of clubs a week ago, he has noticed a difference in his shots.
"The driver I have now is new," Paladino said. "It's from Titleist. The ball's just going so far with it. You don't have to swing real hard to make it go far."
His drive landed significantly past Simons, who needed a long iron to reach the green. Simons' second shot rolled past the cup and he was left with a 50-foot, downhill putt for birdie, which he ran to within 4 inches. Paladino chipped up on to the green and sank his 7-foot, uphill putt for birdie and his second overall title.
"Out of the local tournaments, it's probably one of the few I'm doing. It's really important," said Paladino winning the tournament named for his grandfather. "Being in my grandfather's name, it obviously means a lot more to me than some other regular tournaments. I wanted to come out here and play well."
Paladino now focuses his attention to Tuesday's U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier at Tallwood Country Club in Hebron. He will compete with 22 other golfers for one spot in the U.S. Junior Amateur to be played at Longmeadow Country Club in Longmeadow, Mass. July 18-23.
Josephson is also playing in the qualifier Tuesday, with Brent Paladino as his caddie.