DANBURY - John Conroy found himself in almost the exact same position Tuesday afternoon at the Connecticut Mid-Amateur Championship as he did in 2017 - at the top of the leaderboard heading to the final hole.
This time, it ended much differently - in a good way.
The Berlin native came to the final hole last year three shots ahead, but made a triple bogey and lost the tournament in a playoff. On Tuesday, Conroy made sure he had a little more wiggle room and took a 6-stroke lead to his final hole, not that he needed it.
Conory shot a 5-under 72 to close out the tournament at 6-under par to win Mid-Amateur Championship at Richter Park, becoming one of only three players in state history to win both the Mid-Amateur and the Amateur. The two players to do it before him, Bill Hermanson (who tied for third Tuesday) and Jeff Hedden, are both in the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.
“My game plan didn’t necessarily change,” Conroy said of his approach to the final round after shooting 72 and 71 to start out the event. “It kind of got jump-started when I hit my second shot on hole No. 2 [a par five] to a foot and a half. Then I made a really good two-putt from the lower level of the par-3 fifth and on seven I was about 250 yards out. But I knew it was firm in front of that green so I thought if I could punch a four-iron it might bounce up, and I got it on to about 25 feet and when that went in I knew things were going my way.”
The next closest to Conroy was James Sheltman, who finished at 1-over.
It helped Conroy was able to get out to a quick start despite the heat and humidity that caused several players to withdraw and sent scores on the second round of the day soaring.
He made two eagles and a birdie in his first eight holes and separated himself from the field that no one in the afternoon got closer than four shots.
“When I saw what Ben was doing on the front, with those two eagles [on the par fives], I said, ‘just play your own game,’” Sheltman said. “It didn’t look like anyone was going to catch him.”
But Conroy three-putted to start the back nine before settling back in.
“I decided this year I wanted to know where I was at, so on 10, I asked [rules official] Shelly Guyer how things stood and he said I think five or six [strokes ahead],” Conroy said. “I knew that it was going to be tough for anyone to shoot five or six under par on the back nine. So if I could keep it around par, I’d be all right. I made a nice birdie on ten that kind of settled me down a bit, and a good birdie on 12.”
He also birdied 17, ending any chance of a late comeback from a challenger.
“I have never had that kind of lead in a stroke play event,” said Conroy. “I knew it was down to four on the 17th tee and hit a really nice 6-iron [to four feet]. I knew it’s never really over. I learned that last year. You can never coast.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org