Darien’s Ben Carpenter wins 120th CT Amateur title in sudden death playoff

Darien's Ben Carpenter, who plays collegiately at Yale and recently won the Ivy League individual title, won the 120th Connecticut State Amateur Friday at Ridgewood CC in Danbury.

Darien's Ben Carpenter, who plays collegiately at Yale and recently won the Ivy League individual title, won the 120th Connecticut State Amateur Friday at Ridgewood CC in Danbury.

Will Aldam / Hearst Connecticut Media

DANBURY — After 83 holes of golf between Monday and Thursday, Darien native Ben Carpenter awoke early Friday to take the trip to Ridgewood Country Club for the 120th annual Connecticut Amateur Golf Championship.

Carpenter teed off at 7:30 in the morning alongside opponent Richard Dowling, who had won the tournament in both 2017 and 2019 in the first of a two round 36-hole marathon final.

Nine hours later when the 36th hole was complete, Carpenter and Dowling were still even, forcing sudden death.

On their third time playing Ridgewood’s 1st hole, Carpenter edged his opponent by one stroke to claim the title.

“This means so much,” Carpenter said. “I put in a lot of hard work these past three years. Obviously, my goal being a junior was to play college golf, and now that I am a collegiate golfer, I want to be the best amateur golfer I can be. I think these last few months I have shown my best golf.”

Carpenter, 21, has found success on the links lately, having claimed an individual Ivy League Championship just months ago as a junior at Yale.

“I think my mentality has changed, knowing I can win at a top amateur level,” Carpenter said. “Definitely trusting myself, trusting shots and the ball flight and being more meticulous about where I am going to hit it.”

Carpenter ended the five-day tournament having completed 120 holes in the match-play style event (the first two rounds were stroke play), with it all coming down to the final hole. This was the first time the tournament ended in sudden death since 2006.

“The whole day was intense for sure,” Carpenter said. “I am going to be honest, there was not a lot of good golf being played this morning. It was a pillow fight between both of us, one of us would hit it in a bad spot and the other would hit it in the same spot or a worse spot.”

After the first 18, Carpenter had shot a 77 against Dowling’s 75, but the two went into the quick lunch intermission even in match play.

“It is a tough golf course,” Dowling said. “It demands a lot of focus and good golf shots tee to green. It was a lot of thinking your way around and trying to execute. I played a lot of bad nines and played a lot of good nines.”

When the two wrapped up the first round of the day, Carpenter was not going to sit around during his 20-minute lunch.

“I got in after the first 18 and I was not happy with my swing,” Carpenter said. “I immediately went to the range and tried to sort a few things out.”

The brief range session seemed to work well as he started off the second round strong.

“I definitely hit it better on the last 18,” Carpenter said. “I got off to a hot start in the second 18, like I did with most of my matches. I was three up through the first four holes and was thinking ‘okay, now it is time to bury him’, but he came back with five six and seven.”

Dowling also found an extra gear in the afternoon, responding to a three-hole deficit by winning holes 5, 6 and 7 consecutively.

Dowling took a one-hole lead on 11, but Carpenter responded to take hole 12. From there on the two matched each other.

“Those last four holes were intense for sure,” Carpenter said. “I don’t think my heart has pumped faster while playing golf. Especially on 18 when I hit it into the trees and hit my second shot into a flower bed, not knowing immediately if I would get relief or not.”

Carpenter salvaged the 36th hole, dropping the ball in about 20 feet from the hole with a 56-degree wedge from about 150 yards out, and forced the 37th hole.

“It was a great tournament, I am glad I made it as far as I did,” Dowling said. “It was good to get back into the final. I knew it was going to be a long day, and it certainly started to feel that way in the middle. I am glad we both played well in the afternoon, it was a lot of fun.”

During the trophy celebration, the two-time champion Dowling congratulated his opponent, welcoming him onto the list of names on the Amateur Championship trophy.

Will.Aldam@hearstmediact.com; @AldamWill