PLYMOUTH – One of the questions entering the 55th Annual Canasawacta Country Club Men's Member-Guest Tournament was if a pair of teenagers - one a senior-to-be in high school - belonged amongst a field of teams that included some of the most experienced and talented players to grace the 93-year-old course.
The answer to that question? Yes!
Corey Johnson, 17, and Eric Walling, 19, showed uncanny nerves and unflappable resolve to win the tournament in each other's first attempt. Over the last few holes, it really wasn't really that close, either.
Most players - and teams - have paid their dues for many years before finally breaking through. Tim Carson, part of the two-time defending championship duo along with Scott Seiler, was a runner-up multiple times before he and Seiler broke through in 2011. Carson and Seiler were paired with the winners over the last 18 holes in what would be a grueling mental and physical test.
"I was just incredibly impressed with them," Carson said, who had as good a view as anyone of the two youngsters. "Eric easily has the composure and maturity of a 30-year-old, and Corey, I didn't know he had it in him. The two of them played with exactly the same level of composure the first eight or nine holes. There was very little doubt."
Walling worked at CCC for several years before graduating from Norwich High School last year, while Johnson still works at the golf course in the pro shop. Both have dreamt of playing in CCC's biggest event since they were young boys.
"I couldn't wait to play," Johnson said. "It's like the U.S. Open."
Walling was equally excited to have the opportunity to play. "I've seen members get amped up for this tournament, and we wanted to get a piece of that, too," he said.
An opening-round 68 proved that the tandem belonged among the best teams in the 96-team field, and a second-round 65 that matched the low round of the tournament had the upstart youngesters in the lead, two shots clear of Carson-Seiler, and Bob Branham-Mike Branham.
Nerves typically settle in for any level of golfer, and Johnson said he and Walling were a little nervous early on. Still, it was machine-like pars that allowed them to hold their advantage.