(John Abbott, above, shot 32 on his final nine holes to take a one stroke lead after round one of the 33rd Connecticut Public Links Championship)
August 14, 2018: John Abbott played a pretty ho-hum front nine in the first round of the 33rd Connecticut Public Links Championship Tuesday at Timberlin Golf Course.
Then he put it in gear.
On Timberlin's tough back side, where early leaders struggled, Abbott cruised, making 5 birdies, including one on the final hole, to shoot 32, for a total of 69 (-3) and the day one lead.
He was one of only two players in the field of about 85 who broke par.
The 22-year-old had a couple things going for him, he said. First, Timberlin is Abbott’s home course. Second, he played with Peter Tomlinson of Orange Hills, who shot 34 on the front and until the 13th challenged early leader Eric Bleile (70) of Sterling Farms.
“When Peter started playing such good golf,” Abbott said, “I thought, hey, let’s see if I can keep up with this guy. He got it to three under on the seventh hole, and it almost felt like match play. We were both trying to make birdies.” Tomlinson slipped with a bogey and a double on the back, to shoot 73, while while Abbott was making all but one of his six birdies.
And third, young John had his Dad on the bag. Jim Abbott, as he had at the Amateur, where young Abbott made the quarterfinals, kept things on an even, positive keel.
“On the front, I kept pulling shots, kind of hanging on. On the back, my Dad said, ‘Just commit to the swing,’ and that was it. It’s great to have him. I know he really cares about me playing well and he gives me great numbers and pulls the right clubs.” Dad and son share a positive game plan. “We try to go out there and play hard and have fun and if you get a bad break hope that the course will give it back at some point.”
One break they got was experiencing almost none of the rain that early groups suffered through, though the sunny afternoon breeze made club selection a bit trickier. With Bleile and Abbott setting the pace, the cut of 30 and ties fell to 77.
They were the only players to break par, but Abbott and Biele face a group of experienced pursuers..
At 72 is 2016 Champion Kyle Nolin, along Christopher DeLucia and Josh Cameron, who have both contended in the recent past. James Sheltman of Alling Memorial, sixth last year, is at one over, as is Patrick McGuiness, the 2018 Senior Match Play Champion. He and Tomlinson are tied for sixth. Nick Waddington,T2 behind 2017 Champion Dave Szeczul, is at plus three, and Glen Boggini, the 2014 Public Links Champion who last week qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship is at plus 5.
It’s a very tightly bunched field, eight shots separating leader from the back of the pack of .
“In this tournament guys don’t runaway with it on day one,” said young Abbott.
But some guys step on it. Which is just what John Abbott will have to do again tomorrow in the 36-hole championship’s final round if he wants to be the 33rd Connecticut Public Links Champion.