(First Round Co-Leader Bill Hermanson is Tied at 73 with Ray Underwood)
When he walked off Shorehaven Golf Club’s 18th green today after round one of the 73rd Connecticut Senior Amateur Defending Champion Patrick McGuiness smiled and pronounced the verdict:
“The course won.”
McGuiness was talking about his 79 (+8), but he spoke for the field as Shorehaven’s long, lush rough and its slippery, “don’t dare put it above the hole” greens, sent scores soaring and had most competitors mumbling through three-putts.
That was even true of the handful of players who kept their rounds close to par—no one beat or even matched it—and for leaders Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club and Ray Underwood of Torrington Country Club who each shot 73 (+2).
“I think I had three or four three-putts,” said Hermanson. “The greens were fast and some of the hole locations were tricky. I’ve seen these greens faster, but they were difficult today.”
What made navigating them even more difficult was the fact that balls from the rough, which could not be cut during the recent spate of heavy rain, made controlling shots into greens nearly impossible.
“If you were just off the fairway, you were okay,” said Mike Hooper of Brooklawn, who shot 75 and stood alone in third. “But farther in, no way. And sometimes you were trying to land it 30, 40 yards short of the hole because you knew it was going to roll out of that rough and it did. You had to hit the fairway on long par-fours that was for sure. Otherwise, it was a par 5.”
Such conditions resulted in only 14 of 76 competitors breaking 80. The cut fell at 82, leaving forty-four to play a second round Tuesday. Included among them are five former Senior Amateur champions including Hermanson, who won in 2015, Shawn McLoughlin of Ridgewood the 2001 champion, Jack Bracken, the 2013 Champion, Richard Stevens, the 2007 champion and Bill Dober, the oldest competitor at 76, who won in 1997 and 2000. McLoughlin shot 79; Bracken, Stevens and Dober 80.
A victory by Hermanson would make him the Senior Player of the Year. With the 400 points awarded to the champion, he would overtake current leader McGuiness. Hooper also has an outside chance. They and several others are also playing for a spot on the Connecticut Tri-State team, which will compete against teams from Massachusetts and Rhode Island October 16-17.
The best defense against Shorehaven’s treachery Monday might have been Ray Underwood’s. He’s been working with Wyantenuck Country Club’s Tommy Sullivan, who’s helped him with shots 75 yards and in, and on his “mental game” with sport psychologist Josh Brant, who suggested recently that Underwood read Fred Shoemaker’s Extraordinary Golf. It led to Monday’s game plan.
“A lot of times you come out with a list of expectations. Today I came out with no expectations, only possibilities. That was my key word,” said Underwood. “It’s really about playing without fear.”
The fearless mindset helped him birdie the par-5 first and par-3 second holes before descending to earth, or at least a 16-hole grind. “You really had to keep it together,” he said. “The tees were back. Way back on some holes, including the [447-yard, par-4] eighth, and the [232-yard] par three before it, No. 5, both of which we played dead into the wind.” Unlike many in the field, Underwood survived with not a single three-putt, and though he wavered coming in, he says, managed to score one over par on each side. “I didn’t put myself above the hole very many times and when I got in trouble I played out and got myself back into position,” he said.
Underwood saw Shorehaven for the first time a few days ago, playing with Hermanson, Bracken and Jim Romaniello, a Shorehaven member and 2014 New England Senior Amateur Champion. “I love this course,” he said Monday. “I’m very partial to salt marshes as opposed to open water so I love the finishing hole here.”
He’s also partial to 18th holes where an up-and-down gets you a share of the day one Connecticut Senior Amateur lead.