Adam D’Amario earns the Connecticut Section PGA exemption to the 2022 Travelers Championship as the lowest scoring PGA of America member – Connecticut Section

By Bruce Berlet

OLD LYME, Conn. – Last June, Harris English made a 16-foot birdie putt to defeat Kramer Hickok and win a record eight-hole playoff in the Travelers Championship.

Tuesday, Geoff Gelderman bested COVID-infected Adam D’Amario on the eighth extra hole to win the Connecticut PGA Championship at the Black Hall Club, one of the most difficult courses in Connecticut.

Gelderman, the second-year assistant professional at H. Smith Richardson Golf Club in Trumbull, parred the eighth playoff, the par-4 fourth. Meanwhile, D’Amario, who impersonated Harry Houdini with countless improbable saving pars throughout the final round, flew his second shot 25 yards over the green and failed to make a 20-foot par putt to continue the exciting exhibition.

The consolation for D’Amario who is from Indian Hill Country Club in Newington, will get to play in the Travelers Championship for a second time, earning the Connecticut Section PGA exemption for being the lowest scoring PGA of America Class A member from the Connecticut Section. He accomplished the same in 2018 at the Spring PGA Stroke Play at Hop Meadow Country Club.

Gelderman is a recently registered PGA associate who is on the pathway to PGA of Membership but who will have to pass three levels of the Golf Professional Management Program and significant work experience before earning Class A standing.

“It’s a little bittersweet because I’d like to win the tournament and put myself on the trophy,” said D’Amario, who also shot a second 73 despite missing 14 of 18 greens in regulation, including 10 in a row at one point. “I can’t be upset with the way the playoff went with all of the back-and-forth.”

D’Amario’s longest playoff was nine holes in a Massachusetts Open qualifying, but this obviously had far more significance. And he had a magically saving touch and came within two feet of a hole-in-one at No. 17 with a 7-iron. He had missed the previous 10 greens, including at the par-3 ninth hole, where his tee shot hit at the back of the green and careened down an embankment and into the edge of a parking lot, leading to a double bogey.

The playoff wasn’t much different as D’Amario missed five of eight greens but stayed alive with a sand-saving par on the sixth extra hole, the par-5 second, despite his second shot ricocheting off a tree and 20 yards backwards. He also made a 10-foot putt for par at the seventh extra hole, the par-4 third, but couldn’t save himself on the next hole, earning $2,800 and the coveted Travelers Championship berth that he knew he had secured before the playoff began.

Meanwhile, Gelderman made a downhill 25-foot putt on the fourth playoff, the par-4 fifth, after dumping his approach shot into a bunker. He got up-and-down for par from a bunker at the seventh extra hole, making a 4-foot putt to extend the playoff to what became the decisive hole.

D’Amario said he played “way better than I expected” after going into COVID-19 protocol a week earlier and locking his clubs in the Indian Hill pro shop until he received clearance to play according to CDC guidelines before the first round Monday. He rode solo in a cart but donned a mask whenever he approached anyone.

“A smooth swing tempo is something that I haven’t had for a while,” D’Amario said. “I kind of ran out of gas (Monday) when I bogeyed five of six holes on the back nine, but I managed to really scramble well today.”

D’Amario, who shot 74-78 to miss the cut in his Travelers Championship debut, won the Connecticut Section PGA Professional Championship in 2011 and has qualified for the national PGA Assistants Championship four times and the national Club Pro Championship twice.

Three-time winner Adam Rainaud, a former assistant at Black Hall and four-time Section Player of the Year, was tied for the lead until he made a bogey and double bogey at the 14th and 15th hole. He sank a 10-foot putt for birdie 2 at the 17th but narrowly missed another birdie bid at No. 18 that would have got him into the playoff. He also wasn’t eligible for the Travelers Championship because he’s the pro at the Country Club of New Canaan, which is in the Metropolitan (N.Y.) Section PGA.

Rainaud tied for third with Jason Gobleck, 52, a teaching pro at the Golf Center at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, and former winner Chris Tallman, the PGA general manager at the Orchards Golf Club in Southwick, Mass., both of whom had a share of the lead on the back nine. Gobleck bogeyed the 14th and 18th holes, missing a 20-foot putt for par on the final green that would have got him into the playoff. Tallman, a three-time Connecticut Section Player of the Year, bogeyed the 14th and 15th holes in shooting 75.

The championship was open to all PGA of America members in good standing regardless of PGA section affiliations, as well as all Connecticut Section employed PGA Associates, and drew 60 PGA Professionals from Connecticut and seven from Massachusetts. The event was sponsored by Club Car, Mohegan Sun, Jack Jolly and the PGA Tour.

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