CONCORD — Swampscott’s Christian Emmerich couldn’t sustain an early lead Thursday and fell to Conner Willett, 2-up, in the quarterfinal round of the Massachusetts Amateur golf championship.
Emmerich, who golfed at St. Mary’s and helped lead the Spartans to three state championships while winning two individual titles, went up by three after the first four holes. But Willett subsequently won the sixth hole and controlled the match down the stretch.
Willett, 19, goes on to face 16-year-old Ryan Downes of GreatHorse in today’s final. Downes is the youngest player in the field and, if he wins, he’ll be the youngest winner ever.
It will be the first time two teenagers meet in the final.
Willett picked up wins on holes 8, 11, 13 and 15 before Emmerich, who goes to Holy Cross, took one back on 17 in an attempt to push the match to extra holes. On 18, both approach shots ended a comparable distance from the cup, though Willett nearly holed out.
Emmerich putted first with a chance to make birdie but sent his ball right of the hole pin high. Willett followed it up with a birdie putt of his own to secure the win.
Willett begins his sophomore year at Georgetown University in the fall.
He won the 2016 Massachusetts Young Golfers’ Amateur Championship at the Acoaxet Club in Westport and made the match play semifinals in the 2019 Mass Junior Amateur. He won the Avidia.
Downes will begin his senior year at Longmeadow High School in the fall. He ranked as the No. 23 golfer in the class of 2024 in the AGJA Boys’ Rankings. Downes won the individual title at the 2021 Division I Western Mass Golf Championship, and won the 2021 Cape Cod National Golf Club High School Invitational.
After defeating Emmerich, Willett struck early and often against Billy Argus, winning holes 3, 4 and 5 to build a quick 3-up lead. Argus reduced the deficit with a birdie win on the par-3 sixth, but Willett went back up with wins on 8 and 9. The two held steady as they made the turn, and Willett increased his lead to 4 holes with a long birdie putt on 13. Willett closed out the match by making par on hole 14.
“I’ve just been hitting the ball well,” Willett said. “We play so fast out here. Once you get a rhythm going, it’s pretty easy just to keep it going. Once I regained the tee, I could just finish the hole and almost run up to the next tee and hit my shot, so it was easy to keep a rhythm out there.”