Tommy McDonagh's hopes of duplicating his 2006 feat in the CT Amateur Championship appeared to be fading away.
But the Shorehaven Golf Club member rallied from three-down with 11 holes to play Saturday to defeat Matt Smith of Quinnatissett Country Club 3 and 2 in the finals of the 109th amateur on Saturday at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton.
Five years ago, when he was a rising 16-year-old senior at in New Canaan, McDonagh became the youngest player to win the prestigous amateur championship.
Now the fifth-year senior-to-be at Penn State is a two-time winner, though McDonagh got some help from his opponent, who faltered after building what could have been a comfortable cushion.
Through most of the day, the players staged a back-and-forth match with numerous momentum swings. Smith, who was seeking his first amateur title, seemed to take control when he won the 24th and 25th holes to go 3-up in the 36-hole finale.
But Smith collapsed, playing the next four holes in 6-over with a bogey, double bogey, bogey and double bogey. McDonagh took full advantage, winning two of the four holes during his streak with bogeys himself.
Once he ragained the lead, however, McDonagh never looked back, making a par three at the 31st to go 2-up. After the next two holes were halved, McDonagh closed out the match with a bidie four at the par-5 34th.
After McDonagh won the opening hole of Saturday's match, Smith took Nos. 3 and 4 to grab his first lead. McDonagh won the fifth, and the match remained all square through eight.
Smith claimed Nos. 9 and 11 to go 2-up, but McDonagh answered by winning the 12th and 13th. After the 14th and 15th were halved, Smith grabbed No. 16 to finish the morning round 1-up.
McDonagh squared the match again at No. 21, but Smith took the 22nd, 24th and 25th to open his biggest lead of the day, which proved to be short-lived.
McDonagh almost didn't make it past the first round, as he held off Brian Ahern of Wampanoag, 1-up. He then defeated Chris Delucia of Norwich 4 and 3 to advance to the quarterfinals.
In the round of eight, McDonagh ousted defending champion Bernie D'Amato of Weston in 20 holes in perhaps the best match of the tournament.
With momentum now on his side, McDonagh easily dispatched of the Country Club of Darien in the semifinals, 6 and 4 to set the stage for Saturday's encore performance in the winner's circle.
The 110th Connecticut Amateur Championship will be held next June at Race Brook Country Club in Orange.
Editor's note: For another recent article on golf, see "15 Golfers Close as PGA Tour Hits CT Today"