Adam Rainaud of Black Hall Club shot a course record-tying 65 in the final round to charge up the leaderboard and capture the 82nd Connecticut Open. The state’s most prestigious open championship was played on the 6,862 yard, par-71 layout at Woodway Country Club in Darien, Connecticut.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Connecticut Open is the only CSGA Championship that is open to both amateurs and professionals. The tournament tests the state’s top golfers over three rounds of stroke play at the historic Woodway Country Club, which is celebrating its centennial anniversary in conjunction with hosting the Connecticut Open. The total purse for the tournament is $50,000, with the professional champion capturing a winner’s check of $12,500.
Rainaud began the day at one under-par for the tournament, a full six strokes behind overnight leader Cody Paladino of Wethersfield Country Club, who shot 67-68—135 (-7) and held a two stroke lead over Corey Birch of Silver Spring Country Club. Rainaud played with Paladino the first two rounds and was witness to his nearly flawless golf, so he knew he would need something special to even have a chance to catch the leader.
“Starting the day, I thought I needed to get to seven or eight under-par to have a chance, so the entire round I was thinking ‘Don’t slow down until you get to seven [under]’,” said Rainaud. “After I birdied the sixth hole to get to four under-par for the tournament, at that point I knew I was right in the mix.”
His front nine of three birdies and no bogies put him at four under-par, but with Paladino making an early birdie, Rainaud still trailed by four heading into his back nine.
“When I got to the 16th tee, I saw Cody was in the lead at six under, so I thought I still needed to make maybe one more birdie,” said Rainaud. “I hit a couple of good shots and made birdie on #16, and then made a two good pars coming in.“
While Rainaud making birdie on the 16th to go to seven under-par for the championship, Paladino found his share of struggles on the back nine. Even after a birdie on the 11th hole brought him back to six under-par, a trio of bogies on holes #12-14 dropped him back to three under-par. With all of the players in the last three groups over par in their final round, in just over an hour, a clear champion had emerged, and Rainaud had sealed his first Connecticut Open title.
After an opening round of 75 and an even-par front nine to start his second round, Rainaud played eleven under par in his final 27 holes, making eleven birdies and no bogies. He shot a 31 on his final nine in the second round for a blistering 66 that boosted him into contention, and his final round 65 ties the course record at Woodway Country Club.
“The difference in the last two rounds was definitely my putting,” said Rainaud. “I hit sixteen greens the first two rounds and seventeen greens today, but I had a few three-putts in the first round and didn’t make any birdie putts. I hit a lot of close wedge shots yesterday and today and just made a few more putts.”
The Connecticut Open title is an addition to an already impressive resume. In his young career, the two-time Connecticut Section PGA Player of the Year has already won the PGA Match Play Championship (2015, 2016), Connecticut PGA Championship (2014), Connecticut Section Professional Championship (2014, 2015), Spring Stroke Play (2014, 2016) and Connecticut PGA Match Play Championship (2014).
“I’ve been working in Old Lyme for the past six years and Connecticut is now my home,” said Rainaud, who is originally from South Hadley, Massachusetts. “I’ve never won a state open so this is a huge win for me and is a tournament I’ve been looking forward to since the winter. Since I was 22 years old, it’s been a goal of mine to win a state open, so to have that on my resume for the rest of my life is a really cool feeling.”
Finishing runner-up at two under-par was the pair of Corey Birch of Silver Spring Country Club and Micheal Ballo, Jr. of Woodway Country Club. This year’s Connecticut Open marked Birch’s debut as a professional his third consecutive runner-up finish at a CSGA championship, having been a finalist at the Connecticut Amateur and runner-up at the Russell C. Palmer Cup. For Ballo, it was his second runner-up finish at the Connecticut Open in three years, and although falling just short, closing round of 68 put him in contention to win his first Connecticut Open Championship in front of the home crowd.
For Paladino, the overnight leader and defending champion, there are certainly plenty of positives to take away from a week that nearly saw the 2013 CSGA Player of the Year capture his fifth CSGA championship title.
“We guessed wrong on a few cub selections and I didn’t quite drive it as well today as the first two days, but that’s the way it goes,” said Paladino. “I’ve been playing really well so I’m not flustered or bothered by it, I just had a bad day at the wrong time. I know I’ll come back even stronger the next time.”
Rainaud is hoping that his win at the Connecticut Open will be a springboard for next week’s Travelers Championship, where he is in the field as the representative of the Connecticut Section PGA. Rainaud won the PGA Spring Stroke Play with a two-round total of ten under-par at The Ledges Golf Club in Massachusetts to earn the exemption. It will mark his third PGA Tour appearance, having played in the 2014 Travelers Championship and 2015 PGA Championship.
“I’m definitely going to rest and enjoy the moment, but I know it will all be about chipping and putting at TPC next week. I think if my short game is good, I’ll do well out there.”
Low Amateur Honors
For the second consecutive year, John Flaherty of TPC River Highlands captured low amateur honors at the Connecticut Open. Flaherty shot rounds of 71-73-71—215 (+2) and finished in a tie for eighth place. A total of thirteen amateurs made the cut at this year’s Open, with Flaherty and David Giulietti of the Golf Club of Avon both finishing inside the top fifteen.