For the second consecutive year teenager Jackson Fretty has a share of the lead on the first day of the state’s premier stroke play championship, the Russell C. Palmer Cup presented by KOTA, a Mohegan LDI Enterprise.
Fretty, a senior at Greenwich High, shot even-par 69 at the Country Club of Waterbury to share the lead with Richard Hayes, 33, who plays out of Silver Spring Country Club in Ridgefield. Hayes, who doubled the 214-yard par-3 third, and shot two-over 37 on the front, bounced back with three birdies on the back —a two and two threes—for 32 and 69. His 32 was low for the day on the back nine.
Last year at the Country Club of Farmington Fretty shot 68 to lead alone. He slipped in rounds two and three. “I’m going to try to be relaxed tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll concentrate on hitting fairways and greens and not worry where I stand. Last year I think I got a little too amped up when I was leading after day one.”
Monday's scores, especially given the rain over night, were impressive. “It’s not an easy golf course,” said Director of Golf Tom Gleeton. “There’s only one par 5 and a couple of par 3s that are very long, over 220 yards. With the rain, it was soft. It’s nice that these young kids can’t hit driver and wedge all the time.”
Those soft conditions—for Waterbury, which can get very firm and fast—and the afternoon winds effectively leveled the playing field, leaving the top of the leader board bunched, and tomorrow’s outcome very much in the air.
Within a shot of the two leaders was another teenager, 16-year-old Matt Doyle of Madison, runner-up in last year’s Connecticut Junior Amateur at Watertown Golf Club. Doyle played in the first group of the day and until Fretty finished, led the tournament. His 70 included four birdies and five bogeys.
Also at 70 (+1) were UConn’s Nick Harrington (eClub Connecticut) and Chandler Morris (CC Waterbury), and James Sheltman of Alling Memorial, a member of the winning CSGA side in the Julius Boros Challenge Cup last week.
Fretty’s good fortune started early. He birdied the 423-yard par-four first hole, also birdied the ninth and the 12th, to go with two bogeys on the front nine, one on the back.
At two over were Finn Boynton of Great River Golf Club, Eric Bleile of Sterling Farms Men’s Club, Chris Bennett of Madison Country Club, Kevin Ward of Race Brook, Michael Thompson of Fox Hopyard Golf Club and Ron Soccoli of New Haven Country Club, a past member of the CSGA Julius Boros Challenge Cup and Tri-State teams.
The cut was plus 7, 76. With 36 holes tomorrow for the 46 who shot that score or better, there were many story lines available, involving old and young. Among those surviving day one, for example, were perennial contenders Glen Boggini of Manchester, Kyle Nolin of Tallwood, the former Public Links Champion, RPI No. 1 Austin Rupp of Suffieild, Peter Tomlinson of Great River and John Abbott of Timberlin, the 2018 Public Links Champion.
Named for Russell C. Palmer, former CSGA Executive Director (1986-1995) and inductee into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame (1997), the Palmer Cup is the Connecticut Stroke Play Championship. Mr. Palmer’s numerous accomplishments include establishing the use of GHIN throughout CSGA member clubs and initiating the purchase of the “Connecticut Golf House” which for 30 years has served as the home of the CSGA.
“We love having the Palmer Cup here,” said Gleeton. “We’ve been involved with the CSGA for a long time and feel it’s our responsiblity to host these events. I love seeing the range of players from Bill Hermanson to high school players like Jackson Fretty. And Ben Conroy who came back after winning the Amateur here. So many of the kids come in say thank you for hosting this event. We love to play here. That’s gratifying.”