David Pastore of Oak Hills Park Golf Club fired a five under-par 65 to take the lead heading into the final round of the 80th Connecticut Open Championship. Pastore holds a one stroke lead over Adam Rainaud of Black Hall Club, Frank Bensel of Fairfield, Conn. and Jason Caron of Stamford, Conn.
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 renowned Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton, Connecticut. The total purse for the tournament is $50,000, with the professional champion capturing a winner’s check of $12,500.
After opening yesterday with a one over-par 71, Pastore wasted no time charging up the leaderboard. On a day that yielded a plethora of birdies and red numbers, Pastore made a total of six birdies matched with just one bogey to fire a round of five under-par 65.
“I’ll remember this round for quite a while, said Pastore. “I started on the tenth hole with a two-putt par, and then had eight one putts in row with four straight birdies and a huge putt on 18 to save par. The putter was working today and that made the difference. I guess I was kind of in the zone. I was just lining up the putts and they were going in.”
An amateur, Pastore will begin his final round looking to become the first amateur since Jeff Hedden to win the Connecticut Open Championship. Hedden won the title in 2008 at Round Hill Club after trailing by one stroke heading into the final round.
Pastore won’t be without chasers, as seven players are within three shots of the lead. The trio of professionals in Adam Rainaud, Frank Bensel and Jason Caron all stand just one shot back and have plenty of experience between them. Bensel, the 2009 and 2011 Connecticut Open Champion, fired a round of 67 to move up the leaderboard to three under-par for the championship.
“I had a nice little stretch on the front nine, making birdies on #6, 8 and 9,” said Bensel. “It wasn’t a great ball-striking round, but I didn’t hit any terrible shots and I made some good saves when I had to.”
For Caron, the difficult 6,722 yard Rolling Hills Country Club bears striking resemblance to Wee Burn Country Club, site of Caron’s Connecticut Open victory in 2012. Caron used his steady play to shoots rounds of 69-68—137.
“I really like these tougher venues and I knew going in it wasn’t going to be that easy,” said Caron. “I figured if you can shoot one-under every day you’ve got a chance to be right there.”
Rainaud, playing in just his second Connecticut Open Championship, fired the low round of the championship,a stellar six under-par 64. After opening with 73, the 2014 Connecticut PGA Spring Stroke Play Champion needed to make a big move and did just that. His round of 64 ties the competitive course record at Rolling Hills Country Club, a record set by Frank Bensel in 2008.
“I’ve just been driving the ball so straight and I’m hitting a lot of greens so if I make a few putts I feel like I can do something,” said Rainaud. “I’m actually playing very aggressively, hitting driver on every hole, except the par threes obviously, but that’s the best part of my game”
Among the players who are within striking distance include brothers Mike and Peter Ballo of Woodway Country Club. Mike, the overnight leader after a two under-par 68 yesterday, shot a round of even-par 70 and stands just two strokes back. His brother Peter shot rounds of 71-68 to stand at one under-par for the championship.
The 80th Connecticut Open Championship concludes Wednesday, with the leaders teeing off at 10:30 a.m. Live hole-by-hole scoring will be available for all of the leading groups online at ConnecticutOpen.com. Admission to Rolling Hills Country Club is free for the Connecticut Open and spectators are encouraged to attend.
Making “The Cut”
This year’s starting field of 150 players was trimmed to just the 42 competitors following the conclusion of play on Tuesday. Each year, the lowest 40 competitors, plus ties, advance to play the final round of stroke play on the third and final day.
The cut line was projected at 149 (+9) at the start of the day, after day one showed 38 players at 74 (+4) or better. However, calm conditions yielded excellent scoring conditions and the cut continued to drop throughout the afternoon wave. At day’s end, the cut line fell at six over-par 146 (+6). All professional players who make the cut earn a paycheck, with the winner taking home the first-place professional prize of $12,500.
A Family Affair
There were three pairs of brothers competing in this year’s championship, and all six players successfully made the cut. David (136- 1st) and Paul (145 – T25) Pastore, Mike (138 – T5) and Peter (139 – 7th) Ballo and Brent (145 – T25) and Cody (146 – T34) Paladino.
Leading Groups Starting Times (Starting on #1 Tee)
10:03 am - Ballo, Peter (a), Woodway CC (139) Gallo, Kyle, Tallwood CC (140)
10:12 am - Jackopsic, John (a), Gillette Ridge GC (138), Ballo Jr, Mike, Woodway CC (138)
10:21 am - Bensel, Frank, Fairfield, CT (137), Caron, Jason, Stamford, CT (137)
10:30 am - Pastore, David (a), Oak Hills Park GC (136), Rainaud, Adam, Black Hall Club (137)