The first round of the 81st Connecticut Open Championship concluded at The Patterson Club, with a pair of amateurs John Flaherty, of TPC River Highlands and Corey Birch, of Silver Spring Country Club in the lead after opening rounds of six under-par 65.
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 Patterson Club in Fairfield, Connecticut. The total purse for the tournament is $50,000, with the professional champion capturing a winner’s check of $12,500.
With a 38-minute lightening delay followed later by a one-hour rain delay, the morning round was a long slog for the first wave of players competing in the state’s most prestigious open championship. Once the skies cleared, the challenge became heat, humidity and the undulating greens on the 6,790 yard par 71 Robert Trent Jones designed layout.
Both amateurs and professionals comprised the field of 150 players and a pair of University of Connecticut golfers, John Flaherty and Corey Birch, rocketed to the top of the leaderboard early in their respective rounds. Flaherty was 5-under par through his first nine holes, recording a score of 30 on the par 35 back nine. It took Birch 12 holes to match his teammate at minus five after he birdied his 11th and 12th holes.
“I didn’t hit any great tee shots; really, I mean I just kept them in the tree line,” said Birch, a rising senior at the University of Connecticut. “I had a lot of shots out of the rough but I was able to hit pretty good wedges and made some putts. I didn’t really have any stressful holes, really. I had to get it up and down a couple of times for par but was never really short-sided.”
Flaherty and Birch weren’t finished with their assault on par. Flaherty birdied his last hole of the day, the 511 yard par 5, ninth, and Birch birdied his 17th, the 375 yard par 4, eighth. Remarkably, finishing tied for the first round lead at 65, six-under par, neither player recorded a bogey.
“In the first nine holes, I probably had three kick-in birdies and then I made two long putts,” said Flaherty. “I missed two greens today and they were both on par three's and one was a hair short of the green and one was in the bunker. I got those up and down and besides those two holes, those were the only two testers for par. I hit 16 greens and made a bunch of good putts.”
One stroke back of the Husky pair, another amateur, Clark Robinson of Ellington Ridge Country Club, sits alone in third after a stellar 5-under par 66. Robinson, a rising junior at Marshall University, recorded six birdies against just one bogey.
Two stoppages and wet conditions did not deter professionals Cody Paladino (Wethersfield CC), Adam Rainaud (Black Hall Club) and Mike Gilmore (Winged Foot) each of whom recorded 4-under par rounds of 67 and are tied for fourth place.
“I played great, hit 16 greens, and had no real stress,” said Paladino. “I feel like I was pretty aggressive today, the greens obviously were softer, but we’ll see as things dry out it could be a completely different golf course tomorrow.”
The field will be cut to the low 40 and ties after 36 holes, with the final 18 holes of the 54-hole championship to be played on Wednesday. Admission to the Patterson Club is free for the Connecticut Open and spectators are welcome to attend.
Top Amateurs Seeking First Open Title
After day one, a total of seven amateurs are tied for fourteenth place or better, with Flaherty and Birch leading the way at six under-par. Flaherty and Birch, along with the rest of the amateurs in this year’s field, will be seeking to become the first amateur since Jeff Hedden to win the title as an amateur (2008, Round Hill Club).
What’s in a Cut?
Following Tuesday’s round, the field will be cut to the low 40 players, plus ties. Those players will advance to play the final round on Wednesday, July 29th. After day one, there are 38 players at 73 (+2) or better, with another 18 players just one shot outside the current cut line. Based on the projected cut method used by the USGA, the cut line would fall at 146 (+4).
Steve Sokol (2003 Connecticut Open Champion) – 68 (-3) T7
Gerard Courville (1995 U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion) – 68 (-3) – T7
Zach Zaback (a) (2014 Connecticut Amateur Champion) – 69 (-2) T10
Kyle Gallo (Four-time Connecticut Open Champion) - 71 (E) – T19