he first round of the 80th Connecticut Open Championship is in the books with Mike Ballo, Jr. in the lead after an opening round two-under par 68 at the 6,722 yard Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton.
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.
Ballo holds a one stroke lead over three players- Jason Caron, John Flaherty and Brian Gaffney all stand tied for second after one-under par rounds of 69. The four were the only players in the field of 150 to break par.
“Patience, mental attitude was the key,” said Ballo. “The course was playing really tough today.”
Ballo reached 3-under through 13 before bogeying 14 and 15. But he bounced right back with a birdie at 16 then finished with two pars. “There were a few times it could have gone either way, and I just had to convince myself I wasn’t the only one out there making a ton of mistakes.”
“This is a great golf course in great condition, and it’s a very fair golf course, said Caron, the 2012 champion, “it’s not going to be a runaway, no one is going to shoot ten-under out here.”
Flaherty, a rising junior at the University of Connecticut credited his wedge play and the hospitality of an anonymous Rolling Hills member for his share of the lead. “I hit my 56-degree tight a couple of times early today and that helped me get off to a very good start.”
Flaherty’s play was remarkable in that Monday’s round was his first time playing Rolling Hills. “I came out yesterday and a member was nice enough to give me a ride around the golf course so I could at least see it. It’s a beautiful place. Obviously I really like it.”
Former PGA Tour star, Ken Green stands at one-over par 71. Green, who turned 56 last week, lost the lower half of his right leg in an automobile accident in 2009. The former five-time PGA Tour winner and U.S. Ryder Cup team member remains fiercely competitive. “I love to compete, I love to play. I have less pain this year, but it’s always a little uncertain for the first nine holes. If I can make it to the back nine then I can see what I can do,” said Green whose six birdies were offset by five bogeys and a double.
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 Rolling Hills is free for the Connecticut Open and spectators are welcome to attend.
Top Amateurs Seeking First Open Title
After day one, a total of eight amateurs are tied for seventh or better, with John Flaherty of TPC River Highlands leading the way at one under-par, just one behind the leader. Flaherty, 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 30th. After day one, there are 38 players at 74 (+4) or better, with another 22 players just one shot outside the current cut line at 75 (+5). Based on the projected cut method used by the USGA, the cut line would fall at 149 (+9).
Jason Caron (2012 Conn. Open Champion) - 69 (-1) – T2
Frank Bensel (2009 & 2011 Conn. Open Champion) - 70 (E) – T5
Zach Zaback (a)(2014 Connecticut Amateur Champion) – 70 (E) – T5
Ken Green (Five-time PGA Tour Winner) - 71 (+1) – T7
Kyle Gallo (Four-time Connecticut Open Champion) - 71 (+1) – T7
Evan Grenus (a)(2014 Connecticut Junior Amateur Champion) – 71 – T7