Danbury (August 3, 2020) On day one, an amateur leads the Connecticut Open presented by Reby Advisors.
Saptak Talwar, a senior at Sacred Heart University, shot four-under 67, finishing at almost 7:30 p.m., meaning that it took more than 12 hours to find three players who would break par at Ridgewood Country Club, which, at 6750 yards suggests that many in a young, strong field might do it.
“I think the players were expecting that you’d get a half dozen in that minus-4, minus-5 range,” said Bob Morton, the assistant SHU coach who caddied for Talwar.
“The pin locations were very tricky,” said the leader. “There is a lot of break around the holes. Even if you hit it close. You have to trust it, and it took a toll on me. I missed some short ones.” Talwar, a native Indian studying political science, said there were times when he played away from the hole to be safe. “Sometimes you just have to take your medicine and hit it to 25 feet and two putt.”
Talwar had no three-putts—a rarity today on the course’s sloping greens—and made six birdies, including three in a row at the par-4, par-5, and par-3 stretch of hole Nos. 6, 7 and 8. He missed short par putts, he said at Nos. 3 and 12.
The last time an amateur won the Connecticut Open was 2008 when Jeff Hedden did it at Round Hill Club.
It will be no easy task for the leader, given the congested leaderboard behind him. The close contenders include Chris Ayers, medalist at last year’s Amateur, and Blake Morris, the Waterbury native who has status on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, who both shot 70 (-1). But it also includes 20 players who are within five shots of the lead (a dozen of them fellow amateurs).
For much of the day, there were no scores in red figures. Morris posted the first just before 6:00pm, birdieing the final hole from about 15 feet to shoot 70 (-1).
Why, Morris was asked, could Ridgewood, on a warm fair day with none of the oppressive heat of the past few weeks, hold all but three players of 135 (56 amateurs and 79 professionals) in check?
“A lot of yellow-light golf out there,” was his answer.
“You have a pin where you might have nine feet but it’s not really an offensive putt because it’s got three feet of break so it’s just kind of a ‘guider’ down there. The fairways are difficult to hit, and the combination of difficult fairways to hit, and the wind, which is not strong, but kind of swirly, made scoring more difficult.”
That’s not to say he was complaining.
“The set-up was very fair. There were no bad pins. But the wind complicated things because I think about 90 per cent of the tee shots had cross winds. On the other hand, it’s soft and if you hit it well and you make a few putts you can score.”
Morris, with an early tee time tomorrow—which promises to be the best time to play if there is one, given predictions about the effects of hurricane Isiais—hopes to find one of the those low scores. In a year when players like himself had little chance to advance their professional career goals—both the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie—PGA Tour Canada are shut down—he says winning his home Open would mean even more than it usually does, and he has come close before, finishing top 5 in the last three Opens.
There are five players at 71 (even par), including four-time Connecticut Open Champion and Hall of Fame member Kyle Gallo, Mark Gertsen, who’ll be a sophomore at Colgate and who plays out of the Country Club of New Canaan, Shaun Powers of Fairview Country Club, amateur Steve Wagner of the Country Club of Farmington and Kevin Mahaffey of Pequabuck Golf Club. There are a dozen at plus-1, including Ridgewood’s own Max Theodorakis, and Cody Paladino, who in April regained his amateur status and was runner-up in the Connecticut Amateur at Shorehaven in June.
The Open is 54 holes of stroke play, with a cut after 36 holes to the low 40 scores and ties. The uncertainty of the weather will make completing it a challenge. CSGA Executive Director Mike Moraghan said the decision on Tuesday play would not be made until Tuesday morning. “Our philosophy has always been safety first, and whenever possible to get in as many holes as we can on each day,” said Moraghan. “And that is our aim this year.”