OLD LYME — Alex Gu was a man with options. There were several ways the Darien junior could play his second shot on the first hole of the Black Hall Club — his final one of Saturday’s round.
So what would give Gu the best option to make a final par?
“I was behind the tall tree about 80 yards from the hole,” Gu said. “I had three options: go in the bunker, chip it back out to the fairway or go over the left side of the tree. I was trying to figure out where I could leave it to get up and down. If I put it just off the green, it wouldn’t be that bad.”
Gu then realized he had an entirely different option: pitching his second shot to the front of the green, then getting up and down for par to finish with a 4-over-par 75 to win the second CIAC State Open title by a stroke over Hamden’s Alex Aurora.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet, but it is pretty special to win the second CIAC State Open,” Gu said. “It’s a great step in the right direction.”
Gu also had to get up and down for par on the actual 18th hole — his 17th of the day due to a shotgun start — to remain one shot ahead: not that Gu had any idea.
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Gu was so focused on his own game that he didn’t know where he stood until after he holed out.
“I knew that if I kept it going, I might’ve had a chance at the end. Keep plugging along,” Gu said. “Everyone was going to make bogeys, everyone was going to make some mistakes, you have to hang in there and make sure you don’t make any mistakes coming in. … My playing partner’s dad congratulated me and I said, ‘For what?’ Then I was like, ‘Oh did I (win)?’”
Matt Doyle, the medalist at the Division II state meet to help Hand win the team title, tied for third with Jacob Lindsay (Berlin) with a 77. Michael Hanratty from Avon placed fifth with a 78 and Tyler Woodward (Coginchaug) and Tommy Rosati Jr. (Notre Dame-West Haven) tied for sixth at 79.
Bethany Fell from Fairfield Warde was the low girls golfer, shooting 88, good enough for 18th place overall.
With Shelton’s Kyle St. Pierre (81) tied for eighth place, that meant four golfers out of the Southern Connecticut Conference placed inside the top 10.
Xavier’s Chris Fosdick, also out of the SCC and the winner of the inaugural Open last year with a 67, opted to play the American Junior Golf Association’s Wyndham Invitational in Greensboro, North Carolina, rather than defend.
Black Hall is known for its undulated greens on the calmest of days. Add some wind and putting the pins in tough conditions and that made things even harder for the young golfers.
“This course with a little wind, especially where they had the pins today, it makes difficulty skyrocket. Where the pins were, if you are slightly off, you are, for the lack of a better word, screwed,” said Aurora, who played in this event last year, shooting 79. “It’s not a course where if you hit the fairway, you’re fine. That is true for most courses, but this course, absolutely not. You can hit 14 fairways and bogey every hole.”
Said Gu: “Black Hall is an extremely tough golf course. If you put it in the wrong spot on the green, you may be better off off the green.”
Back-to-back bogeys on holes 15 and 16 put Aurora at 6-over for his round. Then he played his final six holes in 1-under.
“The score initially doesn’t feels amazing, but being here and experiencing the conditions, I’ll take second,” Aurora said. “Alex Gu deserves it, he’s a great player.”
Aurora was already finished before Gu made his final two pars. Darien had been knocking heads with Greenwich in the FCIAC all season long, then finished runners-up to the Cardinals in both the FCIAC and Division I meets.
Gu himself finished second alone at FCIACs and tied for second with Aurora, ironically, at last Monday’s Division I meet. Five days later, Gu stood alone in the final tournament of the high school season.