WETHERSFIELD, Conn. --- Few golfers have dominated the Connecticut State Amateur Championship the way Zach Zaback did this year.
The former UConn golf team co-captain, who graduated just over one month ago, put on a dazzling performance at the 114th championship, held at the Wethersfield Country Club. Zaback (Farmington, Conn.), outdueled former UConn teammate and roommate Corey Birch (Ridgefield, Conn.), 9 and 7, in the 36-hole final match, which included the first hole-in-one of Zaback’s career.
The victory comes on the heels of Zaback’s win last month at the Russell C. Palmer Cup at the Country Club of Waterbury, in which Birch was also the runner-up. The Palmer Cup is considered the unofficial stroke play amateur championship of Connecticut, while the Connecticut Amateur Championship decides its champion by match play. Before Zaback, only one other golfer in state history had ever won both tournaments in the same season, Cody Palladino in 2013.
The Connecticut Amateur Championship uses a challenging format that tests golfers over two rounds of stroke play to determine the low 32 match play qualifiers. Then two rounds of match play each day culminate in the 36-hole final between the two remaining players.
Zaback, who also won the Amateur Championship in 2014, was nothing short of spectacular during the tournament and particularly on the final day. He did not trail in any of his matches throughout the week. On Friday, Zaback shot 13-under for the 29 holes he played, calling it one of the best days of golf in his life.
Zaback wasted no time taking command of the final match, recording birdies on three of his first five holes to take a 3-up lead. Birch managed to keep Zaback’s lead at 3-up through 12 holes, but Zaback then won four of the next five holes, including an eagle on the par-5 14th to hike the advantage to 7-up through 17 holes.
Birch, who also graduated from UConn this year, got one hole back on the 18th hole to leave Zaback with a 6-up lead at the halfway point of the match.
On the 19th hole of the match, however, the Par 4, 332-yard No. 1 hole at Wethersfield, Zaback pulled out his driver and landed his tee shot just 30 yards short of the green, watched it bounce onto the green and roll into the cup. The double eagle was the first ace of Zaback’s career and the first one recorded on the first hole in the 100-year history of Wethersfield Country Club.
Zaback maintained the 8-up lead through 28 holes and when Birch’s birdie attempt missed on the Par 4 11th hole (the 29th hole of the match), and Zaback had just a 6-foot birdie putt, Birch conceded the putt and the match.
Birch has been playing outstanding golf himself since graduation, but he has fallen victim to the amazing hot streak of his good friend. Both players expect to compete in the New England Amateur on July 19-21 at the Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford, and the Connecticut Open on July 25-27 at Woodway Country Club in Darien.