HAMDEN >> Maxx Bugg took a lot of the summer off from competitive golf after the grind of his final season for the Morgan High team in Clinton.
Bugg decided to play in just two tournaments before he leaves to play at Tampa University in two weeks: The Father-Son Tournament held at the Course at Yale last month and the 14th Northern Junior Championship held this week at New Haven Country Club.
“You have to prove yourself to get in and you have to perform each year so you get invited back,” said Bugg, a two-time Register All-Area performer.
Juniors from 16 states and a small group from China participated this week. A total of 117 players made the field of the 36-hole tournament, won by Connor Daly with an even-par 140 total, good enough for a one-stroke victory over Christian Cavaliere and Tim Umphrey.
Daly, who lives in Bronxville, New York, said he entered this tournament with the help of a college golf advisor to choose tournaments to help improve his ranking among juniors.
“I had some patience this week and managed my game well,” Daly said. “I’ve never seen so many scoreboards up for a junior tournament. I played in the U.S. Junior Amateur. I think there were more scoreboards here than there were there. It’s the first time I played where there was a standard bearer walking with us.”
Alissa Yang won the girls tournament with a 5-over 145 total. She was up “sightseeing” as she called it from her home in Norcross, Georgia. She starts her junior year of high school next week.
“I’ve never been up to Connecticut, but I really, really like it,” Yang said. “Three shots back (going into Wednesday’s final round), I knew I had a chance to win, but I knew it would be tough.”
Brent Paladino, tournament co-director with brother Cody, said 50 golfers had to be turned away from the qualifier, and noted that there was a “lengthy waiting list” for this year’s event.
“From the moment they step on the property, we want to make them feel like they are playing in a PGA Tour event,” Brent Paladino said.
And the golfers appreciate how they are treated.
“The way they announce our names, the practice round, the yardage book, the complete access to everything, you feel like you are a professional. It’s my favorite tournament to come play,” said Bugg, who tied for 52nd place.
Chris Simione, a two-time New Haven Register All-Area performer from Cheshire, was encouraged by his high school coach, Dan Lee, to participate. Lee, a close friend of the Paladino family, was the standard bearer for the final group Wednesday.
“When I first heard of the tournament, I thought it would be a well-run tournament, but it blew my expectations away last year in how they treated you. At the (driving) range, they have a plaque with your name on it, so you know it’s a prestigious tournament,” said Simione, who tied for 36th and will play at Bentley College beginning next month.
Last month, Conor O’Brien was a finalist in the Connecticut Junior Amateur and was one of two state residents to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur. This was his final junior tournament before departing for Bucknell University, but the Norwalk resident said he may be back next year to volunteer.
“I didn’t play my best obviously,” said O’Brien, who tied for 22nd. “This championship means so much to me, to come out and shoot yourself out of it on the first day is very disappointing.”
The tournament started out as the Stan Trojanowski Memorial tournament in honor of Cody and Brent’s grandfather, who passed in 2001. It was an event on the Connecticut PGA Junior Tour through 2008. Now it has turned into a two-day tournament that many juniors want to play in and college golf coaches take note as well.
Nick Harrington, who will be a freshman for the UConn golf team this fall, played well enough at the Connecticut Open last week to be in the final group in the final round. He played with the eventual champion – Cody Paladino – and they actually spent some time chatting about the Northern Junior during their round.
“It kind of stinks because I really wanted to play well in this tournament,” said Harrington, who also tied for 22nd place. “The Paladinos do a great job with this tournament. It means a lot to that family and it should mean a lot to all the juniors who play in it.”
Tim Rotermund now lives in the Bay Hill, Florida, area during the school year, but came back to Madison for the summer. He was a quarterfinalist in the state Junior Amateur and will play on the New England Junior team for Connecticut later this month.
“Everyone we talk to says it’s one of their favorite events, if not their favorite event,” said Rotermund, who tied for 17th. “The course is awesome and it’s great competition.”