By Bruce Berlet

HARTFORD, Conn. – Chris Tallman has been the dominant player in the Connecticut Section PGA for several years, and he proved it again Wednesday when he clinched a second consecutive Player of the Year Award.

Tallman, the general manager at Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., earned his third title with a 4-and -3 victory over Brad Lusenhop of the Country Club of Waterbury in the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington on Wednesday morning. His win and losses by William Street of Whitney Farms Golf Club in Monroe and C.J. Konkowski of Hartford Golf Club assured Tallman would claim the Section’s highest playing honor again.

In the semifinals, the second-seeded Tallman fell 3-down after six holes but birdied the par-5 18th hole with a 5-foot putt after hitting a 2-iron second shot from 255 yards to the front edge of the green to notch a 1-up victory over sixth-seeded Brian Keiser of Longmeadow (Mass.) Country Club. Keiser, who won the Connecticut PGA Championship in May to qualify for the Travelers Championship for the first time, birdied the first hole on the way to his early advantage, but Tallman won the seventh, 12th, 14th and 15th holes with three birdies and one par to take a 1-up lead. He lost the 16th hole to a birdie, but after he and Keiser parred No. 17, Tallman notched the closing birdie to advance to the 18-hole final Thursday, starting at 8 a.m. He’ll face 12th-seeded Jordan Gosler of Manchester CC, who defeated No. 8 Ron Pfaefflin of Norfolk CC, 5 and 4, and will have 10 Top-10 finishes in 14 starts this year.

“It was definitely an interesting match,” Tallman said of his semifinal victory. “I hit only two fairways but managed to hit 14 greens in regulation, some from the trees. It wasn’t a very stable round, but I made five birdies, three on the back nine. The turning point was a win on the 12th hole, and then I saved par with a good flop shot after hitting my approach 30 yards left of the green on the 13th. He missed an 18-foot birdie putt so I was able to halve the hole.”

Tallman, 34, has now been Player of the Year in 2018, 2020 and 2021 while finishing second in 2019 and fourth in 2017. He also played in the Travelers Championship for the only time in 2019 and finished in the Top 10 in 11 of 13 starts this year. He won the Spring Pro-Pro with Josh Detmer, finished second in the Connecticut Section Championship, tied for second in the Connecticut PGA Open, tied for fourth in the PGA Pro-Veteran and second Travelers Championship Pre-Qualifier and tied for sixth in the Connecticut PGA Championship.

“The last few years have been a lot of fun,” Tallman said. “This was an interesting year because I haven’t had any events when I’ve played really well, just good enough to earn some points. And it was another challenging because it has been tough at work because I’ve had to wear a lot of hats as far as finding help, maintenance and other things. I haven’t played as much as I would have liked, and practice was out of the question. And I forgot to register for the Connecticut Open in time, so I figured I wouldn’t have a chance to win Player of the Year because that’s a big points event. But when I checked the standings before the Match Play Championship, I noticed I was in second place, so I figured I had a chance.”

Tallman started the final major championship of the year 27.5 points behind PGA Life Member Fran Marrello, an eight-time Player of the Year and nine-time Senior Player of the Year. But Marrello lost in the second round to finish the year with 291 points. That gave four other players a chance to be the POY, but Tallman will earn at least 75 points for 328.5 points. A win on Thursday would be worth $2,000 and 100 points.

Tallman’s most dominant year was the pandemic-ridden 2020 season when he finished in the Top-10 in all nine starts, including wins in the Connecticut Section Championship, PGA Pro-Veteran and second Travelers Championship Pre-Qualifier and finishing second in the Connecticut PGA Championship. He also had 11 Top-10s in 15 starts in 2019, including wins in the Spring PGA Stroke Play Championship, Connecticut PGA Championship, PGA Pro-Club Champion Championship and Del Kinney Pro-Pro Championship with Detmer. He had a career-high 13 Top-10 finishes in 17 starts in 2018, including a win in the Connecticut Section Championship.

Marrello, a member of the Connecticut Section PGA and Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame, is second in the Senior POY race, 24.5 points behind Jason Gobleck of the Golf Center at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield. The two qualified for the Senior PGA Professional Championship on Oct. 21-24 at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and players receive 25 points for making the cut. So Marrello can win a 10th Senior POY title if he makes the cut and Gobleck doesn’t.