By Bruce Berlet

KENSINGTON, Conn. (October 6, 2022) – C.J. Konkowski was leaking a bit of oil early on the back nine at Shuttle Meadow Country Club on a balmy Thursday.

But after having to wait several minutes for a ruling left of the 15th green, Konkowski promptly sank a 75-foot chip with his 58-degree wedge that found the cup for a birdie 2 and catapulted him to the biggest victory of his career in the Connecticut PGA Professional Championship.

“It came off really clean, just the way I wanted,” Konkowski said. “It looked good all the way, but you never really expect it to go in, maybe just get within 10 feet. It was the shot of my life.”

The shot of the tournament was Konkowski’s fifth birdie in a closing, 2-under-par 69 for a 36-hole total of 5-under 137, one better than Chris Tallman, who closed with a near personal-best 65 to clinch a third consecutive Connecticut Section PGA Player of the Year and fourth in five years.

Konkowski, 29, who is in his third year as an assistant golf professional at Hartford Golf Club, had come close to a major Section title on several occasions, but continued strong play finally got him into the winner’s circle in a final round postponed from Wednesday due to wet conditions.

“I’m just really happy to win one because I’ve been around second and third for a few years,” said Konkowski, whose biggest previous victory was in the 2019 New Hampshire PGA Chapter Championship. “This year I’ve been playing really well the last few months, and this time I made a few more putts and had a few things go my way.”

Especially on the 15th hole.

Konkowski had a two-stroke lead after a first round played in rain, swirling wind and bone-chilling temperatures on Tuesday and kept pace with an equally hot Tallman with birdie putts of 8, 20 and 8 feet on the fourth, sixth and seven holes to turn in 3-under 34. A long approach led to his first bogey at the 10th hole, but he got that dropped shot back with a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 11. A short approach led to a bogey at the 12th hole, but his “highlight shot” at No. 15 got him back to 6 under. A 4-putt from 100 feet produced a closing bogey at the par-5 18th hole, which is the first time that Konkowski knew how he stood.

“I didn’t look at the scores on my phone until after I hit by drive on 18, so I didn’t know how well Chris was doing,” Konkowski said. “But I deliberately didn’t want to know because I thought it might make me get nervous.”

Instead, the 2015 graduate of the University of New Hampshire qualified for the PGA of America Professional Championship for the second time. After graduating from UNH, Konkowski was the assistant pro at Keene (N.H.) Country Club and coach of the Franklin Pierce University golf team from 2015-2019 before heading to Hartford Golf Club. He earned $4,000 from a $20,000 purse and 100 points in the Player of the Year race to finish fifth with 256.66 points.

Tallman, the general manager at Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., put a new Callaway Odyssey putter in his bag two weeks ago, and it has helped lead to two 65s that were one off his career low. After an opening bogey Thursday, he made seven birdies, including on putts of 6, 7 and 6 feet on the second, third and fourth holes, the latter after he drove the 296-yard par-4. He two-putted the par-5 eighth hole to turn in 34 and made a 20-footer for birdie at No. 11 to get within three strokes of the lead. An 8-foot birdie putt at the 16th hole got Tallman to 3 under and only two back, and it appeared as if he might get even closer until Konkowski sank his improbable shot in the group behind. Tallman hit a wedge to 2 feet to set up a closing birdie and ended a shot short when Konkowski bogeyed the last hole.

“The wind got me Tuesday (in a 73),” Tallman said. “But today it was 70 degrees with no wind, so it was a green light. I knew I had to do something special. I’ve been hitting the ball and putting really well, but I hadn’t been putting the ball in the right spots on the green. Today I hit 16 greens in regulation and felt really confident with the putter. I knew I was going to have to make at least five birdies, and my goal was to finish 5-under. Just came up one short.”

Tallman, 35, has now won the Player of the Year in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022 after he earned 75 points to finish with 436.00, which was 62 more than Billy Street of Whitney Farms Course in Monroe, who shot 68 to finish third at 141, good for 60 points. Terry Slater of Race Brook Country Club in Orange shot 71 to finish fourth at 145, one ahead of Jordan Gosler of Manchester Country Club (76) and Matt Stein of GREATHORSE in Hampden, Mass. (74).

“I wouldn’t say it was one of my best years as far as placing in tournaments,” Tallman said. “But I feel as if my game has got stronger, which led to more low rounds than any year.”

Konkowski, Tallman and Street qualified for the 2023 PGA Professional Championship April 30-May 3, at Twin Warriors & Santa Ana Pueblo Golf Clubs in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. Fran Marrello, a PGA Life Member and a member of the Connecticut Section PGA Professional and Connecticut Golf Hall of Fames, previously clinched a record 10th Section Senior Player of the Year title when he captured the Senior Connecticut PGA Championship for a record eighth time to extend his member championship record win total to 25 spanning more than five decades. Marrello, 68, shot 72 Thursday to finish in a tie for seventh.

The final Player of the Year leaders were: 1. Tallman, 436.00 points; 2. Street, 374.00; 3. Stein, 290.10; 4. Adam D’Amario, Indian Hill CC-Newington, 257.10; 5. Konkowski, 256.66; 6. Brian Keiser, Longmeadow (Mass.) CC, 254.23; 7. Jason Gobleck, Golf Center at Lyman Orchards, Middlefield; 176.80; 8. Mike Martin, Tashua Knolls GC-Trumbull, 187.30; 9. Gosler, 176.80; 10. Marrello, 161.40; 11. Marc Bayram, Timberlin GC-Berlin, 142.86; 12.

Michael Jezierski, Race Brook CC-Orange, 136.50.

The tournament’s presenting sponsors were Cadillac, Club Car and Rolex, and supporting sponsors were Titleist/Footjoy, Callaway, Nike, TaylorMade, Golf Channel and the PGA Tour.