Westport (July 29). We get by with a little help from our friends.
Richard Stevens accepted a last-minute invite from his friend Jack Bracken to play a practice round at Longshore Park Golf Course Friday, which he had not played before, and for Stevens, it paid off Monday.
“Thanks, Jack!” said Stevens, after he learned that with 69 he had not only shot his age but had won the 23rd Super Senior Championship. He was a shot clear of Shawn McLoughlin, 75, whose bogey on the par-4 17th kept him from tying Stevens. Stevens said the practice round helped him from "over-reading" breaks on the greens. And the importance of hitting Longshore's sometimes smallish greens.
“My strategy was simple,” said Stevens. “Hit greens. According to Hoyle, I hit 15 greens. According to me, I hit 17. That was it. It was all ball striking. I putted okay, but not great.”
Stevens, the 2007 Senior Amateur Champion and Senior Player of the Year, made three birdies and three bogeys. Two of those birdies came on two of Longshore’s toughest holes, the 417-yard par-4 6th and the 185-yard par-3 11th. Longshore’s three par 3s on the back, the 11th, the 13th and the 15th, often tell the tale of a round. Stevens played them one under. The only green he “really” missed, he said, the long (also 417 yards) par-4 14th, was his lone backside bogey. He had two three-putts, not uncommon Monday on Longshore’s sometimes difficult to read greens.
Though Longshore played just under 6,000 yards, it yielded no scores under par, a surprise to many of the competitors, including Stevens. “Honestly, I thought a couple under would win,” he said. “But in competition, everything plays tougher.”
It was the first time the Super Senior had been played at Longshore, and the course drew praise, even from those fatigued by the 90-degree temperatures. Unusual for Longshore, the wind was mild, making midday feel even warmer.
“I think it was terrific,” said Stevens. “Fun to play. And today, as a super senior, a golf course rates high if it’s fun to play. Not a lot of stress out there.”
Stevens played with Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame member Dave Szewczul, of Tunxis Country Club, who shot 3-over 72 and tied third with Chuck Claffey of Farmington Woods.
“Dave is always the guy to beat,” said Stevens admiringly. “And it helped me playing with him. David’s not a slow player, but he’s a deliberate player. And that helped me focus on my game more. That really helped.”
For Szewczul’s part, he reported that his recovery from multiple surgeries last year is progressing, but not quite there. “Physically, I’m doing well. But it takes time to get back into the mindset to grind it out, too,” said Szewczul, who has won every CSGA championship save the Open and as late as 2013 competed in the U.S. Amateur. This was his first Super Senior. He turned 65 in December.
Longshore, almost a century old and once known as Longshore Beach and Country Club , was purchased by the town of Westport in 1960. It was a coup for the town, for Longshore as a private club had drawn the likes of U.S. senators, a comedian named Bob Hope and a lefty with a quirky but effective swing named Babe Ruth.
It is the site of the Annual Chappa Invitational Tournament, one of the most important high school team competitions of the season, which has been held for the past 49 years.