When Patrick McGuiness accepted the Senior Match Play plate last year at Gillette Ridge, his second consecutive senior championship victory, he reminded us that the enduring champion of senior golf in Connecticut, Dave Szewczul, was missing. Szewczul was out for surgery.
This year at Wampanoag Country Club, Szewczul will be back. And that changes the competitive landscape markedly.
“It’s great for Dave and it’s great for the rest of us,” said Ray Underwood, who won the 2018 Senior Amateur Championship at Shorehaven Golf Club in October. “Dave raises the bar. He challenges all of us to play at a higher level.”
Szewczul’s return is the first story line of the 13th Senior Match Play Championship, which comes to Wampanoag, host to many other CSGA championships, for the first time.
In the short history of the Senior Match Play, the youngest of the CSGA majors, dating from 2007, Szewczul has dominated. He won in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. He won the Connecticut Senior Amateur Championship in 2011, 2012 and 2016. Also in 2016 Szewczul won the Connecticut Mid-Amateur Championship on this same course. He went on to win the Public Links for the fifth time in 2017.
Last year he endured several surgeries for his back and knees.
“I’m a bit rusty,” he said early in the year at the Julius Boros Challenge Cup. “And I’m working to alter my swing somewhat to put less strain on my back.” Szewczul has been working with teaching professional John Nowobilski. He said the swing would be slightly more rotary and less upright than before.
For his part, McGuiness, in limited championship play so far, has performed well. At the Julius Boros Challenge Cup in May he and partner Underwood took 2.5 of 3 points from their Connecticut Section PGA opponents and McGuiness won two of three points from professional Billy Downes in the amateurs’ second consecutive victory. He shot 71 with two birdies.
13th Senior Match Play Pairings: https://www.golfgenius.com/pages/1833875
Senior Major Winners Here
Besides Szewczul, McGuiness and Underwood, other senior major winners in the field:
—Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club, who won both the Senior Amateur and Senior Match Play in 2015 and is a former Connecticut Amateur champion as well;
—Tom Brett of Manchester Country Club, 2017 Senior Match Play Champion at Brooklawn;
—Bruce Kraczkowsky of Blue Fox Run, who won the Senior Match Play in 2016;
—Mark Vasington of Wampanoag, who won the Senior Amateur in 2014;
—Jack Bracken of Hartford Golf Club, who won the Senior Amateur in 2013 at Tallwood Country Club
—Jim Bango, of Alling Memorial, 2005 Senior Amateur Champion
—Shawn McLoughlin, the 2001 Senior Amateur winner, who last year at 75 made the quarterfinals in this event.
2018 Standouts All Back
All of last year’s semifinalists and quarterfinalists are in the field:
—McGuiness of Keney Park (Finalist)
—Mike Hooper of Brooklawn (Finalist)
—Bruce Kraczowsky (lost to McGuiness in semis)
—Rich Jute (lost to Hooper in semis)
—Steve Robinson (lost to Hooper in quarters)
—Shawn McLoughlin (lost to Kraczkowsky in quarters)
—Rick Malafronte (lost to Jute in quarters)
—Frank Geiger (lost to McGuiness in quarters)
2018 Medalists Return
Both co-medalists from 2018, McGuiness and Brownson’s Bob Murphy, Jr., return. They shot even-par 72 last year in the 18-hole qualifier at Gillette Ridge.
Four Wampanoag Members Compete
Besides Mark Vasington, 2014 Senior Amateur Champion, other players with “home field” advantage are:
Wampanoag, which opened in 1924, was designed by Donald Ross and has remained relatively untouched since its opening. Its greens are difficult and normally very fast. Wampanoag has hosted 20 championships, including the 2005 Connecticut Women’s Open, won by Liz Janangelo Caron, who grew up at the club. The course will play to approximately 6400 yards, par 72.
Established in 2007, the Connecticut Senior Match Play is the youngest CSGA Championship. It is the first of two majors for players 55 and over, the second being the 74-year-old Senior Amateur, to be held this year at Black Hall Club, September 23-24. Monday’s 16 qualifiers will play 18-hole matches until eliminated, with the 18-hole final Wednesday afternoon, July 3.