Cameron Corner a turning point in Norwich Invite final
Norwich — His buddies refer to a section of the back nine at Norwich Golf Course as Cameron Corner.
Hard to argue with that nickname after Josh Cameron seized control of the 91st Norwich Invitational championship flight final at that very spot.
Deadlocked with fellow first time finalist Drew Aitken at the turn, Cameron won three straight holes for a comfortable 3-up lead. He closed out his first championship win on the 15th hole to post a 4 and 3 victory.
Cameron became the first Norwich Golf Course member to win the event since 1999 when Jim Sowders, Jr., earned the crown. He made it as far as the semifinals in his previous two appearances.
"It felt great," Cameron said of playing in first final. "It's pretty surreal actually. The whole last two days just kind of blended together. I played great the first day and then I just snuck past the first three rounds.
"I knew my best golf was ahead of me and I just stayed patient. Today, in the final round, I kept telling myself once we get to the corner, 11, 12, 13 and 14, I can take advantage of those holes. I knew that would be my place because they suit my game pretty well."
Just when Cameron, a 30-year old from Uncasville, start to surge, Aitken stumbled a bit.
Aitken didn't care for his approach shots that missed the green on No. 10 and No. 11. Being off-target contributed to him losing both two holes.
Then Cameron played the par 5, 12th hole, like a pro. His long drive left him with a challenging down-slope lie in the rough.
His accurate second shot settled nicely on the green about 20 feet from the pin. Then he coolly stepped up and drained the downhill eagle putt, stretching the lead to 3-up.
"I had a good feeling that I would make it," Cameron said. "I was due because I really hadn't made a putt in the last couple of rounds that had meant anything, so it was time."
Aitken knew he was in trouble.
"He got the momentum going his way," Aitken said. "Momentum is key in match play. Once you get the momentum going one person's way, it's hard to come back from that."
Aitken's last hopes faded on the par 3 15th hole. He pulled his tee shot left of the green and his ball rolled into a row of hedges. He never recovered.
Cameron kept the pressure on by consistently hitting fairways and greens.
"I felt like I could wear him down hitting quality shot after quality shot," Cameron said.
Up until the back nine, the two first-time finalists matched shot-for-shot. Neither led by more than one hole and Aitken's par on No. 9 evened the score.
"It was exciting," Cameron said. "Drew played great. He's phenomenal up-and-comer."
Both golfers had a tough road to the finals.
Cameron survived a fiercely competitive semifinal match with seven-time Norwich club champion Chris DeLucia, winning 1-up.
"I got lucky beating him," Cameron said. "He played much better than me. ... I just gritted that one out."
Aitken, a former Killingly High School all-state standout now playing at Central Connecticut, outlasted Chris Vincent, 1-up, in his semifinal on Sunday morning.
Overall, it was an enjoyable experience for Aitken.
"I'll take a lot of positives away from this weekend," Aitken said. "I played really well in general."
Several other flights crowned champions on Sunday.
In a match between two former champions, Phil Perry knocked off Dave Jones, 3 and 2, in the First Flight final.
Jeff Clang beat Rick Vegliante, 2 and 1, in the Second Flight while Matt Lame beat Scott Vose, 1-up in the Third Flight and Derrick Renaud defeated Andrew Fitch, 4 and 2, in the Fourth Flight. John Aitken beat Jason Cerniglia, 2 and 1, in the Fifth Flight and Zach Young downed Mark Prosnick, 3 and 2, in the Sixth Flight.
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