(After shooting 65-64 CJ Swift is one shot off the lead)
July 31, 2018: Things got a little tougher at the Connecticut Open Tuesday, but there were a few guys who didn’t notice.
Southbury’s John VanDerLaan shot the low round of his life, competitive or otherwise— 62—with a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch to post 128 (-12). His round tied the Connecticut Open single-round record and almost guaranteed him the tournament record of 200.
Which got him just one shot clear of CJ Swift, who followed yesterday’s 65 with a “better ball striking day” of 64 (-6) that included seven birdies on New Haven Country Club’s normally confounding greens.
Adam Rainaud, the 2016 Champion, made five birdies and an eagle, shot 66 to follow a 65, and, at -9, and stands at third.
And then there were the other guys, because the leader’s scores were the exception on a day when half as many competitors broke par as on Monday, and Day One’s soft, accessible, greens began to take on the mischievous personality Willie Park Jr. intended for them.
“The greens were faster and that made the hole locations tougher,” said Rainaud. “And there was more wind. I think you’ll see scores today a stroke or two higher.” When the wind freshened in the afternoon it further complicated things for the other contenders. With exception of Swift and Waterbury’s Blake Morris, who was two-under, most of the leaders stalled.
Kyle Gallo, who led the field with 66 Monday, shot 72 (+2) and slipped to -4. Jason Thresher of West Suffield, four under yesterday, shot even-par 70. So did Max Theodorakis, another Monday 66.
Twenty-five players were under par on Monday. Only 13 on Tuesday. The cut of 40 and ties, which looked like it might be plus one or perhaps even par yesterday, rose to plus 3. More than half of those making the cut shot over par today.
But for VanDerLaan, the 22-year-old DII National Champion from Florida Southern, coming off an impressive T- 31 (-14) finish at the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship, it was only a day of opportunity.
“Yesterday, to be honest, I played solid but I felt like a left a few out there. I felt like I could have had a 64 or 63. Today I kind of just got everything out of my round.”
His Tour experience, he acknowledged, helped this week. “It definitely gave me a lot of confidence, because I played good, and I didn’t play as good as I could have, and still made the cut and played with those guys on the weekend and that gave me a lot of confidence for going forward in my whole career—that I could play at that level.”
VanDerLaan enjoyed the fact that his lowest round ever came at New Haven, because 20 years ago his father had won shop credit at a member-guest here and bought him his first set of clubs. It was even sweeter because his younger bother Michael also made the cut at minus one.
Swift, who also has Tour ambitions, seemed oblivious to Tuesday’s difficulties. “I hit the ball a lot better than I did yesterday,” said Swift, who reached all but one green in regulation. “My ball striking was a lot better. I’ve been putting well. I’ve been giving myself opportunities to make five or six birdies a round.” Swift has also had no three-putts over the two days and credited strong lag putting for his scores. He two putted from 40-feet on his final hole, the par-3 9th. “It broke about 12 feet and I made 10 footer coming back.”
On a day when things got rough for much of the field the New Haven Country Club “home team” had reason to celebrate. 2018 Connecticut Amateur Champion Ben Conroy shot 68—he’s at minus-one. Evan Beirne is at plus-one, and 2015 Palmer Cup Champion Ben Day is at plus-3, all surviving to Wednesday.
Four-time Open champion Frank Bensel will play Wednesday. He’s at minus-one. And Defending Champion Jeff Evanier survived at even par.
Play will be in threesomes off of both tees on Wednesday. The leaders, VanDerLaan, Swift and Rainaud, go off No. 1 at 8:40. Mike Ballo (-6), first-round leader Kyle Gallo (-4) and Jason Thresher (-4) precede them at 8:30.