(Patrick McGuiness will defend the Senior Amateur title he captured in 2017)
The Connecticut Senior Amateur Championship will be played at Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk on October 1 and 2. Many in the field are familiar with the Robert White track though, as it has hosted the Jerry Courville, Sr., Memorial, named for the club’s Hall of Fame member, since 1996 (Courville won the Senior Amateur twice). The club has also conducted both the Connecticut Open and the Connecticut Amateur.
Shorehaven’s challenge, says Head Professional Mike Laganza, begins with its par threes. Holes five, thirteen and seventeen are all lengthy, and made more difficult by wind off the Long Island Sound, perhaps more a factor now thanks to tree removal over the winter. Both five and thirteen play over 210 yards. Seventeen is slightly shorter, but often plays into the wind. Even the second hole, which measures between 145 and 165 yards, is made more challenging by its severely elevated, plateau-like putting surface.
“The par 3s are where you can lose shots,” says Laganza, a Norwalk native who played for UConn and has been with the club for 25 years. “So you really have to take advantage of the short par fours and par fives. There are spots above the hole you just don’t want to be. It’s a fair course, and it’s pretty straightforward, really right in front of you. But when the wind blows, which it often does, it can be a handful. Hitting the ball well off the tee, and in the right spots, will be key.”
Though recent rains will make holding approach shots easier, breezes off the water will allow greens to firm up quickly, Laganza says. It will also make Shorehaven play longer than its 6550 yards.
Extending a Senior Streak
After winning the 2017 Connecticut Senior Amateur Championship by with rounds of 71-69 (-4) at Fairview Farm Golf Course last September, Patrick McGuiness won the next senior major, the 12th Senior Match Play Championship at Gillette Ridge Golf Club this June. He lost in a playoff to Bill Hermanson in September’s Senior Tournament of Champions. But McGuiness, 56, scoffed at the suggestion that he was building “the McGuiness Slam,” contending that there was only one player any slam ought to be named for: Dave Szewczul, of Tunxis Country Club, who has won 15 individual CSGA championships, including three Senior Amateurs, the latest in 2016. Szewczul is recovering from back surgery this year, and not in the field. McGuiness is clearly one of the favorites as he pursues his third individual senior major.
A Field Filled with Former Senior Amateur Champions
Besides Defending Champion McGuiness, there are six former champions in the field.
—Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club (2015)
—Mark Vasington of Wampanoag (2014)
—Jack Bracken of Hartford Golf Club (2013)
—Richard Stevens of Sterling Farms (2007), runner-up last year
—Shawn McLoughlin of Ridgewood Country Club (2001)
—Bill Dober of Brooklawn Country Club (1997 and 2000).
Senior POY: It’s Down to This
Though he has a healthy, 148-point lead in the Dick Siderowf Senior Player of the Year standings, Pat McGuiness (569 points) has pursuers who could catch him at Shorehaven. With 400 points to the champion and 225 to the runner up, Bill Hermanson in second with 421 points, Bruce Kraczkowsky third with 268 points, Mike Hooper in fourth with 225, and Ivan Lendl in fifth with 206 all have outside chances. Hermanson, who won this month’s Senior Tournament of Champions and placed third with partner Phil Perry in the Four-Ball Championship, would become Player of the Year with a victory. The others have more complicated odds and will need help from other players.
Tri-State Team Competition
The Senior Amateur is also the last chance to earn, or secure, a spot on the 16-man Connecticut Tri-State Team, which will compete for the 85th time against teams from Rhode Island and Massachusetts at Oyster Harbors Club off Cape Cod October 16-17. The team includes six spots for seniors and the winner here is almost certainly assured a spot on the team.
The Old and The Young of It
Both the oldest and youngest members of the field are Brooklawn Country Club members. The youngest is Paul Fitzsimmons, who turned 55 on August 25. The oldest is Bill Dober of Fairfield, who turned 76 in April.
Home Field Advantage
Three Shorehaven members are among the 77 Senior Amateur competitors. Leading the “home team” is Jim Romaniello, the 2014 New England Senior Amateur Champion and the 2017 Westchester Golf Association’s Senior Amateur Player of the Year.
A Host to Major Championships…
Shorehaven is not new to major Connecticut championships. It hosted the 1959 Connecticut Open and the 1960 Connecticut Amateur championships, both of which were won by Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame member Dick Siderowf of Westport. The 1980 Amateur was also held at Shorehaven, and it was another Hall of Famer, Fred Kask who claimed victory.
Shorehaven will again host the Amateur in 2020, as well as the 2024 Connecticut Open, which will coincide with the club’s centennial. For two decades Shorehaven has hosted the Jerry Courville, Sr., Memorial, named for Shorehaven’s own Hall of Fame member, Jerry Courville. That tournament, rescheduled this year, will be played on October 9.
…And a Home to Major Champions
Connecticut major champions who have made Shorehaven their home club, include:
—Jerry Courville, Sr., who won the 1965 Connecticut Open, the 1968 Connecticut Amateur and the 1991 and 1992 Connecticut Senior Amateur
—Jerry Courville, Jr., who won the 1981 Connecticut Amateur and the 1995 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship
—Tommy McDonagh, who won the 2006 and 2011 Connecticut Amateur championships.
Shorehaven Golf Club opened for play in 1924. It was designed by Scottish architect Robert White, who also designed Silver Spring Country Club in Ridgefield. The course measures approximately 6550 yards and plays to a par 71.
The Senior Amateur comprises 36 holes of stroke play. It is open to players who are members of a CSGA club and who are 55 by the start of the tournament. Forty players and ties advance to Tuesday’s round.
The Connecticut Senior Amateur is one of 20 major championships conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, which functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. Founded in 1899, the CSGA is the country’s oldest state golf association and conducts over 80 championships, qualifiers and one-day tournaments throughout the year, in addition to administering handicaps for over 40,000 members and 175 member clubs. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the CSGA supports a variety of golf organizations within Connecticut, including the Connecticut Women’s Golf Association, Southern New England Women’s Golf Association, The First Tee of Connecticut, the Connecticut PGA, the Connecticut Golf Course Superintendents Association and the CSGA Scholarship Fund in Honor of Widdy Neale.