(Tom Brett, 2017 Champion looks to repeat at Gillette Ridge)
Although its field is not, 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 August.
It was an acknowledgment by the CSGA that match play is the game we play most often, and that senior golfers deserve a match play championship of their own. It combines the stroke-play qualification and elimination matches the way that Connecticut Amateur has for decades.
The Senior Match Play begins with a qualifying round of 18 holes stroke play that sets a 16-man match play field. Qualifiers play two matches each day, culminating in an 18-hole final. Tom Brett of Manchester Country Club won last year’s championship 4 & 3 over Eugene “Red” Fabbri at Brooklawn Country Club.
A Return to the Ridge
This is the fourth time that Gillette Ridge Golf Club in Bloomfield will host the Senior Match Play.
The course is an Arnold Palmer-Ed Seay design opened in 2004, a layout known both for its natural beauty and its challenge. The par-72 tournament course will play to 6550 yards. Its Blue tees, closest to what the seniors will be playing, have a sturdy rating of 72.9/136.
Gillette Ridge hosted the LPGA Futures Tour Cigna Golf Classic from 2005-2008 and the PGA Tour Travelers Championship Qualifier from 2010-2012. The course was named to honor Francis Gillette, a 19th century anti-slavery politician and business leader who served three terms in the Connecticut House of Representatives and whose house still stands on the site.
In its short history, one player has dominated the Senior Match Play: Dave Szewczul of Tunxis Plantation, arguably the strongest senior golfer in Connecticut history. Szeweczul won the event in 2010, and again from 2012 through 2014. But Szewczul will miss this year’s tournament as he recovers from back surgery.
Four Former Senior Match Play Champions in the Field
Four Senior Match Play champions will compete: Besides Defending Champion Tom Brett, 2016 Champion Bruce Kraczkowsky of Blue Fox Run, 2015 Champion Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club, who reached the match-play portion of this month’s Connecticut Amateur, and 2009 Champion Dave McNally of Norwich Golf Course. McNally won the Senior Match Play on this year’s site, Gillette Ridge.
2017 Senior Match Play Quarterfinalists Competing
Besides Brett and Kraczkowsky, other quarterfinalists from last year’s championship include: Stephen Carruthers of H. Smith Richardson Golf Course, Paul DiNardo of Richter Park Golf Course, Jim Romaniello of Shorehaven Golf Club, who won the 2014 New England Senior Amateur, and Richard Stevens, of the eClub of Connecticut, the 2007 Connecticut Senior Amateur Champion who also won the CSGA Richard Siderowf Senior Player of the Year Award that year. Jack Bracken of Hartford Golf Club, the 2017 Connecticut Super Senior Champion, will compete.
26 Major Champions in the Field
A complete list of major champions in the 2018 field:
Jack Bracken: 2013 Senior Amateur
Tom Brett: 2017 Senior Match Play
Jim Gentile: 2004 Mid-Amateur
Bill Hermanson: 1990, 1991,1992, 1993, 2001 Mid Amatuer, 1991 Connecticut Amateur, 2015 Senior Amateur
Bruce Kraczkowsky: 2016 Senior Match Play
Bill Lee: 1975,1979,1990 Connecticut Amateur, 2008 Senior Amateur
Pat McGuiness: 2017 Senior Amateur
Shawn McLoughlin: 2000, 2013 New England Senior Amateur, 2001 Connecticut Senior Amateur
Dave McNally: 2009 Senior Match Play
Joe Polizzano: 2002, 2003 Senior Amateur
Jim Romaniello: 2014 New England Senior Amateur
Richard Stevens: 2007 Senior Amateur
Mark Vasington: 2014 Senior Amateur
Rich Wilczewski: 2002 Public Links
Tom Brett is ready. Not only did the defending champion this month win the Stevie Garren Two-Ball at Manchester Country Club with partner Kevin Murray, and not only did he win in a sudden death playoff, but he did it by making his first hole-in-one of his career, a 6-iron to the 192-yard 18th in front of a gallery celebrating the event and its beneficiaries, the CSGA Scholarship Fund in honor of Widdy Neale, and the Connecticut Section PGA Foundation. Well, played, Tom!
The Long and the Short of It
This year’s youngest competitor is John Bauman, who turned 55 on May 4. The oldest competitor is Bill Lee, who turns 75 in December.
A Tennis Hall of Famer
Ivan Lendl, the Hall of Fame winner of ten Grand Slam tennis titles, including three U.S. Opens. Lendl holds a 1.9 handicap at Torrington Country Club, where he is a six-time club champion.
2018 Masters Champion, Patrick Reed holds the course record. Reed shot 65 in the local qualifier at Gillette Ridge for the PGA Tour’s 2010 Travelers Championship.