(Richard Malafronte of Hunter Golf Club earned the last spot in match play after a 3-hole playoff)
June 18, 2018: On a steamy, windy Monday at the Senior Match Play, the name of the game was ball control.
And for the most part, Gillette Ridge’s firm, hazard-filled layout won that game.
Of 78 players attempting to qualify for 16 match-play spots in the first senior major of the year, only two managed to match par. None bettered it.
“The fairways are fast. Lots of doglegs. A lot of blind hazards and downwhill tee shots where the ball is really running,” said Bob Murphy Jr. of Brownson Country Club, the first to finish at even par and grateful for it. “If you pick good lines and hit it where you’re aiming, the game seems easy. But there are a lot of tricky shots out there. Picking the right lines and hitting them is key.”
Murphy, who teed off early, said the wind picked up on his second nine, when gusts reached 20 miles an hour. “The guys that teed off after us were going to have a more difficult time.”
And for the most part they did. But one of those late starters, Keney Park’s Patrick McGuiness, winner of the 2017 CSGA Senior Amateur, managed to match par as well. The field’s oldest competitor, William Lee, 75, of the Course at Yale, shot 73, as did Brooklawn Country Club’s Michael Hooper, who was one-under during calmer conditions on the front, two over on the back, for 73, as well.
“I played well on the front, but on the back I was just holding on,” said Hooper. “I was in a holding pattern.” Tennis Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl of Torrington Country Club was one of three players at 75 (+3) to survive.
Conditions, and an Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay layout where water or wetlands come into play on 14 holes made for some surprising non-qualifiers. Defending Champion Tom Brett, former Senior Match Play Champions Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club, Dave McNally of Quinnatisset Country Club were among the casualties. So was Richard Stevens, the 2007 Senior Amateur Champion. Former champion Bruce Kraczkowsky of Blue Fox Run shot 76 and survived.
Four players who shot 77 played off for two spots. Richard Malafronte of Hunter Golf Club and Gary Matteson of Cedar Knob found spots in a three-hole playoff, both making birdie threes on the 5th hole Gillette Ridge. Malafronte will meet Murphy in the morning.
Although its field is not—players must be 55 or over—the Connecticut Senior Match Play Championship is the youngest CSGA championship. It was established in 2007. The Senior Match Play is the first of two “majors” for players 55 and over, the second being the 73-year-old Connecticut Senior Amateur, played in October. Monday’s qualifiers will play 18 hole matches until eliminated. The final match, 18 holes, will be played Wednesday afternoon.