(2018 Palmer Cup Champion Brian Ahern grabs first round lead at Mid-Am)
August 27, 2018: The first day of the 31st Connecticut Mid-Amateur presented by KOTA played like any day of a U.S. Open.
“It was a day of survival,” one competitor said, “on a survival golf course.”
Though Richter Park is not especially long at 6744 yards, it can be treacherous, with water on 14 of 18 holes and elevation changes that make shot selection a challenge. Scores trended high, and for most of the day even-par 72 led the field.
Fitting then that the player who finally broke the even-par logjam is the ultimate survivor, 42-year-old Brian Ahern, a two-time Mid-Amateur Champion and 2018 Palmer Cup Champion, which he won after coming back from back problems. He got up and down on his final hole late Monday to shoot 71, and record the only number in red.
Ahern’s card looked like an Open card: Two birdies. One bogey. Sixteen pars. “I made a lot of pars,” he said afterward.
Forty-three players weathered 90 degree heat to shoot 78 (+6) or better and move on to Tuesday’s 36-hole finale, which, if forecasts are accurate, will be played in heat even more wilting than today’s.
Hot or not, the goal of the survivors will be the same as it was today: Keep the ball in front of you.
“You really have to stay in the fairway to have a chance here,” said Ryan Garrity, who shot 72 along with both of his fellow competitors, 2018 Connecticut Amateur Champion Ben Conroy and H. Smith Richardson’s Dan Murphy. They were joined by former Amateur and Mid-Amateur Champion Bill Hermanson, and another former Public Links Champion, Glen Boggini, who recently qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in September. He said his key was driving the ball accurately and putting a bit better lately than he had earlier in the season. “Hitting fairways is key,” said Boggini.
Even if you do that, Richter can be a challenge. “It was hard to tell sometimes how the greens would react to shots,” said Murphy. “Some were firmer than others.” Garrity said they figured that out a bit too late. “It hit me finally that the elevated greens were firmer,” he said. “Of course they are! Because they’re dryer!”
At 73, one back of the even-par pack, was James Sheltman, who has played well this year. Sheltman made match play in the Amateur and finished T3 in this month’s Public Links. He made three birdies on the front Monday to shoot 34, but, with three bogeys on the back, finished one over.
Also in the hunt: Kyle Nolin, the 2016 Public Links Champion (+2), two recent Senior Match Play Champions, Tom Brett (+3) and Bruce Kraczkowsky (+4), and 2016 Super Senior Champion Jack Bracken, who got up and down on the final hole from 90 yards to make the cut.