Golf: Sciarretta wins Connecticut Junior Amateur

The summer is only halfway through but Andrew Sciarretta has already put together an impressive list of accomplishments.

The latest, and biggest, achievement came last week, when the Wilton 17-year-old won the 74th Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship, which was held over four days at Watertown Golf Club.

Sciarretta, a rising senior at Fairfield Prep, birdied three of the final four holes in the final match to defeat Connor O’Brien of Oak Hills Park Golf Course, 2 and 1.

“I feel very honored to win such a prestigious event that so many great players have won in the past,” he said. “My opponent in the finals match, Connor O'Brien, is a great player and we had a fun match.”

In was the first-ever Connecticut State Golf Association major championship for Sciarretta, who will compete at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship next week in South Carolina.

Last week was the third time Sciarretta had competed in Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship, but the first time he had made it past the quarterfinals.
Path to victory
The tournament brought 86 of the state’s best junior golfers to Watertown Golf Club, a par-71, 6,423-yard course. The event began on Monday, July 6, with one round of stroke play. Sciarretta, who plays out of Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, shot an even-par 71 to finish tied for third and advanced to match play.

On the first day of match play last Tuesday, he scored wins over Chris Ayers of Wethersfield Country Club, 5 and 3; and Abir Singh of Rock Ridge Country Club, 5 and 4.

In the quarterfinals last Wednesday morning, he was tied with Max Theodorakis of Ridgewood Country Club going into the final hole, where he pulled out a one-up win with a birdie.

That afternoon, he played in the semifinals against Michael VanDerLaan of the Country Club of Waterbury and lost five of the first seven holes, before winning five of the next seven holes to take a one-up lead after 15 holes. On the 18th, Sciarretta hit what was described as “the shot of the tournament” when he hit a wedge shot from behind a tree that landed on the green just two feet from the cup, helping him clinch the two-up win.

In the finals last Thursday, Sciarretta faced the 2013 Connecticut Junior champ, O’Brien. Once again, Sciarretta fell behind early as O’Brien was two-up after seven holes. His goal was to get to all even after nine holes, which he did by sinking a 30-foot putt on the ninth hole after hitting his tee shot into a bunker.

“I made a nice sand save on the ninth hole to get it to all square with my opponent going into the back nine. I was faced with a similar scenario in my semifinals match, and made some important putts in the middle of the round to get the match back to even,” he said.

Sciarretta made another 30-foot putt on the 14th hole to take a one-up lead, and he maintained that lead the next two holes with a par and birdie.

On the 17th, however, his tee shot went into the rough, leaving him 110 yards from the cup, and behind a tree. In yet another big shot, Sciarretta hit a wedge shot onto the green and was able to clinch the match with a par.

“The wedge shot I hit on the 17th hole in the final match was a crucial part of the round. I was in the right side rough behind a tree and had 110 yards to the pin. I hit a sand wedge over the tree and it ended up about six feet from the hole,” he said. “Connor was a great opponent and applied some early pressure on me, which forced me to play steady and consistent for the rest of the round. I was able to feed off of his great play in the end and make some birdies coming down the stretch.”
Big summer
The win continued an already strong summer season for Sciarretta, who finished his third season on the Fairfield Prep golf team this past spring.

At Prep, he won the Division I individual state championship at a freshman in 2013, and has been named to the Southern Connecticut Conference all-league team all three years, and all-state two times. He was a team captain this season and will be a captain again next year.

“I put a lot of hard work into every aspect of my game with my coaches during the off-season, which gave me a lot of confidence heading into this summer season. My hard work has turned me into a more consistent player,” Sciarretta said of his strong play this summer.

He won the US Challenge Cup’s Computer Merchant Cup at Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in Bloomfield in early June, with a one-over par 141 for two rounds, capturing the title by four strokes.

Earlier this month, he finished second at the World Series of Junior Golf in Providence, R.I., after shooting an eight-under par 136 for the two-round tournament — including a six-under 66 in the final round.

On June 17, he qualified for the 68th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, after shooting a one-under par 138 at Shackamaxon Country Club in Scotch Plains, N.J., at a qualifying tournament, finishing fourth. He opened with a round of 71 but came back with a two-under par 68 in the second round.

The U.S. Junior Amateur will be held next week at Colleton River Plantation Club in Bluffton, S.C., with a field of 156 golfers. The field will be cut to 64 players after two rounds of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday. Match play begins next Wednesday and continues to the 36-hole final on Saturday, July 25.

Sciarretta said he’s ready for the challenge.

“It will be the most competitive junior golf tournament I have played in so far in my career, and I feel it will be a great test for my game.”