(Runner up Sarah Houle's final round 68 was the low round of the championship)
August 16, 2018: Kyra Cox’s fourth consecutive tournament victory, her last before she begins a college career at Furman University, was a keeper.
The Ridgefield star shot 71 (-1) Thursday at Hartford Golf Club to win the 53rd Connecticut Women’s Amateur Championship by eight shots over Sarah Houle of Rock Ridge Country Club. While Houle narrowed the 36-hole gap with a 33 on the front, including birdies on the first three holes on the way to a tournament-low 68 (-4), she could not rattle Cox. As Houle pushed, Cox responded with two front-nine birdies of her own and added two more on the back, where, frankly, she said, she was just trying to make pars. A couple of late bogeys made no difference but revealed a nervous side the champion rarely showed this week.
“I started off pretty solid, but coming in I kind of was all over the place,” said Cox, who practices and plays at Sterling Farms. “I got a little nervous, you know, thinking about the fact that this is my last tournament of the summer and going to school in three weeks and all of that. But to win here, it’s really special. ”
Nervous, but not that nervous, apparently. Cox finished under par for the third straight day. She and Houle were the only red scores on the board Thursday, when a course still soft from Tuesday’s torrential rain, played longer than its 5625 yardage. With a 211 (-5) total, including 13 birdies over the three rounds, Cox was the only player in the field to finish under par. (Houle finished at plus three.)
All of which might have been predicted given her breakthrough spring and summer. The 18-year-old shot 71 (-1) in the first round of the Connecticut Women’s Open at Innis Arden in May and finished T12, but that turned out to be just a warm-up. Coming into the Amateur, Cox had won, in succession:
—The Liberty National Invitational at Liberty National Golf Course by one
—The Northern Junior at Great River Golf Club in Milford by one
Those two, close as they were, depended on a short game that the long-hitting Cox has raised a notch this season. She got up and down five times Thursday, three for birdie.
“I’m known for hitting it far,” said Cox. “And I can hit it far. I can really poke it out there on the par 5s and have short irons into the par 4s. But what I spend 80 percent of my time on is around the greens. I worked on that so hard these last few months and I can see the improvement in my game.” She is coached by her father, Keith, a good player in his own right, who caddied for her this week.
Houle, who will attend William and Mary in the fall, confirmed Cox’s analysis. Asked if she’d learned anything playing with the champion Thursday, she said, simply: “Short game.”
There are five divisions in the Women’s Amateur: Overall, Senior, Super Senior, Junior and Team.
In the Senior Division Debbie Johnson of Oronoque narrowly defeated Jennifer Holland of Lyman Orchards, 241 to 242. But it took some composure. “I mean, she eagled the first hole and I bogeyed it and it was like, ‘Here, take three shots,’” laughed Johnson, but her 78 in the final round, against Holland’s 80, made the difference.
The Junior Division finished in a rare tie, with both Elizabeth Garfield of Tashua Knolls, and Meghan Mitchell of New Canaan both shooting 241 and sharing the honors.
Garfield, who finished T7, also was part of the winning team for Tashua Knolls. She and Alexa Brown, who finished fourth, shot a total of 475 for the week, well ahead of the Wampanoag team of Jean Sennett and Mercedes Large.
Sennett, though, won the Super Senior Divison over Donna Harris of Farmington Woods and Nancy Walker of Wethersfield, who were ten back.
The championship was supported this year by Fore Ladies Golf, which provided prizes, and gift certificates for every competitor.
The Women’s Amateur is one of more than 50 championships, tournaments and qualifiers conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the oldest state golf association in the country, dating from 1899. The CSGA functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. It administers handicaps for over 40,000 members and 181 member clubs. As a 501(c)(6) 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, the Connecticut PGA, and the CSGA Scholarship Fund in honor of Widdy Neale.