Fox Hopyard Golf Club, a regular presence on any list of best courses in Connecticut, will host its first Connecticut Amateur Championship, the 117th, June 17-21 in East Haddam.
The semi-private course, most recently designated as one of the 2019 Best That You Can Play by GolfWeek, has been the site of other championships and qualifiers, including the Connecticut Women’s Open Championship in 2003 and the Connecticut Section PGA Walter Lowell Championship in 2013, but never an Amateur.
Designed by Roger Rulewich after its sister course, Crumpin-Fox Golf Course in Bernardston, Mass., it plays to a par 71, and stretches to almost 7000 yards. (The Amateur will play at 6912 yards.) Rulewich said he wanted to construct a course that gave golfers the feel of playing through “the mountains of Vermont, and the lowlands of Kiawah,” all in one round.
That pretty much fits the picture that Rick Dowling, the 2017 Connecticut Amateur champion, has of the course. He says he remembers playing Fox Hopyard as a junior winner on the Connecticut PGA junior circuit. “It kind of reminded me of Lake of Isles,” says Dowling. “Tiered greens, elevation changes. You can’t see a lot of the landing areas on greens and club selection and distance control become critical.”
With last year’s champion, Ben Conroy, playing in the Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rhode Island, Dowling is the most recent Amateur champion to compete. He won at Tashua Knolls in Trumbull and now works out of Golf Performance Center in Danbury, where his company, Junior Golf Hub, is located. He says he’s prepared for the Amateur as he does for any major championship. “I have a regular practice program for any big tournament,” that involves “lots of reps in all aspects of the game,” he says, mixing in days off. “The reps give me confidence that I’ve prepared as well as I can. And then you just go out and play.”
So far in 2019, he’s done well. In May, he and partner Nick Taylor of C.C. of Waterbury won their second team event of the young season, the Wilson Cup at Scarsdale Golf Club in Westchester. They’d won the CSGA Two Man Championship at Black Hall Club for the second consecutive year in April.
Nevertheless, he feels lucky to be in the field. “I had quite few friends who had to qualify and didn’t make it,” he says. “So I feel fortunate. And I’m excited.”
Fresh Field: Fox Hopyard is a very different course from last year’s more traditional Country Club of Waterbury, and the field will be about as different year-to-year as an Amateur can get. In addition to Conroy, 2018 runner-up Elias Gross is not back. Nor are the other two semi-finalists, Evan Grenus, who has turned pro, and Rob Neaton of Black Hall who is on the mend. Just 15 of the 32 who made match play last year will compete. Only five from the round of 16 and three from the round of eight will be there.
Former Amateur Champions: There are four former Amateur champions in the field: In addition to Dowling, 2009 Champion R.J. Zielinski of Stanwich Club, 1991 Champion Bill Hermanson, and 1978 Champion Dave Szewczul will compete.
Youth Movement: As is the case with most Amateurs, the field comprises a wide mixture of young and experienced players, this time perhaps with an emphasis on youth. Connor Belcastro, the 2018 Junior Amateur Champion is in the field. Alex Gu of Darien, 17, who this month won the CIAC Open Championship, along with Matt Doyle, 16, of Madison, who won the Division II Championship. Michael Hanratty, who as a 16-year-old last year made the cut in the Connecticut Open at New Haven Country Club is playing. 18 year-old Billy Nail of Millbrook Club and the Division I Champion Greenwich Cardinals will play. Calvin Smith, 16, of Wee Burn, who partnered with Gu to win this year’s Chappa Invitational, is also in the field. Tom Rosati, son of Great River Golf Club’s Director of Golf, will play, as will 19-year-old James Bosworth of Hop Meadow.
Experience Galore: At the other end of the age spectrum are a couple of Hall of Famers and several other senior winners. Bill Hermanson, the former Senior Amateur and Amateur champion is in the field. Dave Szewczul, the former Amateur, Public Links, Mid-Amateur, Senior Match Play and Senior Amateur champion returns from back and knee surgery. Both are in the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame. Tom Brett, the 2017 Senior Match Play champion, and 2018 Senior Amateur Champion, Ray Underwood of Torrington will play, as will 2007 Senior Amateur Champion Richard Stevens.
College Stars: Some of the area’s best college players or recent graduates are playing: Nick Piersall of Bryant University, who made the round of 16 last year; Chandler Morris of UConn, who was third in the 2019 Palmer Cup; Mason McCool of New Haven, a star at Kenyon College in Ohio, and who now attends Yale; Alex Manner of Sacred Heart; Finn Boynton of UConn, who performed well at the Palmer Cup and AJ Ouimet of Valdosta State in Georgia, a quarterfinalist last year.
“Mid Am” Standouts: Four members of the field are “mid-ams” who have played in recent USGA events. Mike Kennedy, Patrick Griffin, Glen Boggini and Ben Day all competed in the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. Day played with brother Dan in their third U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes. Dan Murphy of H. Smith Richardson was also there with brother Tim. Dan made match play in last year’s Amateur. In addition, perennial standouts Ron Soccoli Jr. of New Haven, James Sheltman of Alling Memorial, Nick Waddington of Manchester, Steve Mikulski of Twin Hills and Steve Gettings of Orange Hills will be at Fox Hopyard.
2018 Winners: Seven 2018 champions are in the field: Richard Dowling, who with Nick Taylor won the Two Man Championship; Public Links Champion John Abbott, a quarterfinalist in the Amateur last year; Ben Day, who partnered with Ben Conroy to win the Four Ball at Yale; Junior Amateur Champion Connor Belcastro; Senior Amateur Champion Ray Underwood; Tournament of Champions winner Patrick Griffin of Blue Fox Run and TOC Senior Champion Bill Hermanson.
Major Winners: There are 12 individual CSGA championship winners in the field.
Connor Belcastro, 2018 Junior Amateur
Glen Boggini, 2014 Public Links
Tom Brett, 2017 Senior Match Play
Ben Day, 2015 Palmer Cup
Richard Dowling, 2017 Amateur
Patrick Griffin, 2018 Tournament of Champions
Bill Hermanson, 2018 Senior Tournament of Champions; 2015 Senior Amateur; 2001, 1993, 1992,1992, 1991, Mid-Amateur; 1991 Connecticut Amateur
Mike Kennedy, 2017 Mid-Amateur
Dave Szewczul, 2017, 2011, 1995, 1993, 1992 Public Links; 2016 Mid-Amateur, 2016, 2012, 2011 Senior Amateur; 2014, 2013, 2012 Senior Match Play, 1978 Connecticut Amateur,
Richard Stevens, 2007 Senior Amateur
Ray Underwood, 2018 Senior Amateur
R.J. Zielinski, 2009 Connecticut Amateur
Schedule of Events: All players will play 18 holes on Monday, June 17th and 18 holes on Tuesday, June 18th. The low 32 players will advance to match play, culminating in a 36-hole final on Friday, June 21st. Coverage: In addition to full championship coverage on our website csgalinks.org, spectators and players may join the conversation using hashtag #CTAmateur. Follow us on: Facebook at CSGAlinks; Twitter and Instagram @CSGAlinks. Photos will appear on Facebook and on our Flickr page: flick.com/csgalinks.
Wednesday, June 19th (AM) - Round of 32
Wednesday, June 19th (PM) - Round of 16
Thursday, June 20th (AM) – Quarterfinals
Thursday, June 20th (PM) - Semi-Finals
Friday, June 21st - Finals (36-Holes)
About the championship: The Connecticut Amateur Championship is the oldest event conducted by the CSGA and is one of the oldest state amateur championships in the country. The first winner of the Amateur was Thomas L. Cheney in 1899. Past champions have included Robert M. Grant, after whom the championship’s medalist honor is named, and PGA Tour player J.J. Henry.
Eligibility: Participants must have an active USGA handicap at a CSGA club not exceeding 6.4. The field comprises 120 players of which 88 qualified at one of four sites this spring. The remaining players are exempt based on criteria set forth by the CSGA Competitions Committee.