Ellen Nighbor of Great River Golf Club fired a round of even-par 73 to take a three stroke lead after day one of the 51st Connecticut State Women’s Amateur Championship. The state’s most prestigious women’s amateur championship is being contested over 54-holes of stroke play at the 5,593 yard, par-73 layout at Heritage Village Country Club in Southbury, Conn.
Nighbor, who is competing in her first Connecticut State Women’s Amateur Championship, was able to steady the ship after a rocky start that put her two over-par through her first three holes. After making a birdie on the 5th hole, Nighbor made a string of par’s and made the turn tied for the lead at +1. The back nine proved challenging for many of the players in the field, with three par 5’s that combined played nearly three strokes over par. But with her impressive length off the tee, Nighbor was able to cruise through the difficult stretch, making a trio of birdies on the 12th, 13th and 14th holes to move to two under-par for the tournament.
Although a double-bogey on the par-4 16th hole would derail some of her momentum, a back-nine score of one under-par propelled her to an even-par 73 and the low round after day one.
“I just tried to stay really focused out there, the course definitely requires a lot of thinking and putting the ball in the right places,” said Nighbor, who played the difficult set of par-5’s at Heritage Village in two under-par. “Being able to hit it decently far really helped me put the ball in some good places off the tee. I’m just going to try to stay positive going into tomorrow and keep it going mentally, and just try to make a few more putts out there.”
A rising senior at Sacred Head University, Nighbor is originally from Glen Ellyn, Illinois and is coming off her best season of collegiate golf. In her junior year at Sacred Heart, she became the first female golfer in school history to earn NEC Conference Player of the Year honors, won her first collegiate event this past March, and finished inside the top-10 in all but one tournament.
Nighbor holds a three shot lead over MacKenzie Hawkes of Madison Country Club, who recovered from a pair of early double-bogies on the 8th and 9th holes to shoot a round of three over-par 76. Hawkes recently won the 97th CWGA Championship this past June and is a rising sophomore at Northwestern University.
Both Nikki Liucci of Farmington Woods Golf Club and Maisie Filler of Hartford Golf Club shot rounds of 77 to sit in a tie for third place after day one, and both are certainly poised to make a move when Tuesday’s action begins. Filler, who is currently the highest ranked female junior player in Connecticut, is the 2015 CWGA Junior Champion, and Liucci, a recent graduate of St. Francis University, was runner-up in the CWGA Championship earlier this year.
Defending champion Catherine McEvoy, who is seeking to become the tenth player in tournament history to win consecutive Women’s Amateur titles, opened with a solid round of 78 and is just five shots back with two rounds still to play. McEvoy started last year’s Women’s Amateur with the identical score, but was able to make up ground by shooting the lowest final round of any competitor in the field.
The second round begins at 7:30 a.m. off both #1 and #10 tees, with the leaders beginning play at 8:40 a.m. Nine-hole scoring for all groups will be available online at CTWomensAmateur.com.
Ellen Nighbor, Great River Golf Club – 73 (Even)
Junior Division (17 and Under)
Maisie Filler, Hartford Golf Club – 77 (+4)
Senior Division (50-59 years of age)
Jen Holland, Southern New England Women’s Golf Assoc. – 82 (+9)
Super-Senior Division (60+ years of age)
Darlene Tranquilli, Orange Hills Country Club – 78 (+5)