CSGA (September 20, 2020) Welcome to Senior Season.
With the New England Senior Amateur just completed, Connecticut seniors now face their two major tournaments of the year, the Senior Amateur at the Country Club of Farmington September 29-30, and the Senior Match Play at Innis Arden Golf Club in Old Greenwich October 5-7.
In a typical season, these events are months apart. But 2020 is hardly a typical season.
“It really does feel like all of a sudden it’s Senior Season, with everything not starting until September,” says Bill Hermanson, the Defending Senior Amateur Champion, having just competed in the New England Senior Amateur. Though top players such as Hermanson, Dave Szewczul, Bob Murphy Jr. and Dick Stevens have also played in “regular” events such as the Amateur, Palmer Cup and Mid-Amateur, senior competition is just beginning.
“It’s different for sure because courses play differently and with the climate and your body reacts differently as well,” says Murphy, second in the Senior Player of the Year competition at this point to Szewczul who tied fourth at the New England event—654 and 547.66. “Right now balls are not holding like they do early in the year and you’re not even finding ball marks.” Both of the senior venues, Farmington and Innis Arden, are “old style” courses with greens that tend to be smaller than average and will, at this time of year, play firm and fast.
Murphy says he won’t prepare his game differently given the reschedule, but he will take more time each round preparing his body, a challenge in the cooler fall weather for most seniors. “I will arrive earlier and do more stretching because it takes longer to get loose and ready. I do yoga, that’s part of the routine, too.”
The shifting of events also means that Player of the Year competition, and with it qualification for the Tri-State Matches, among Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut at Hartford Golf Club October 13-14, will likely not be decided until the final event of the season. Six of the 16 players on each side are seniors.
As things stand now, Murphy and Szewczul, who has won every major amateur championship in Connecticut and just won the senior division of the Tournament Champions, are joined by Dave Jones of Mohegan Sun Golf Club, Hermanson and Stevens in the top five of the Senior Player of the Year competition. But the last two major events could make a huge difference. At stake are 500 points to each winner, 280 to the runner-up, 200 to the third-place finisher, providing plenty of incentive to compete right to the finish.
“Tri States is a huge deal,” says Murphy. “At the beginning of the year Player of the Year is there, in the back of my mind, but after I got to be part of the winning team Tri-Sri-State team at Oyster Harbors Club [in 2018], when it came down to one shot, I was sold. I wanted to be part of that every year. So the Tri-States are top of mind.”
Szewczul, who finished T4 in the New England Senior Amateur and won the Super Senior Amateur in New Hampshire, Murphy (T12 there) and Hermanson (T31) are all playing well. Szewczul underwent multiple surgeries three years ago and took 2018 to recover. He says he is still not quite back to peak form but is close. “The doctor’s say it’s a process,” he says. “It takes time. I’m not as long as I was, and I’m not generating the same torque as I used to. But I’m happy to be playing.” And playing well.
Hermanson is satisfied with most of his game. "In New Hampshire [at the New England Senior Amateur] I played exceptionally well tee to green. Never really made any putts. Really, I couldn’t be happier with my game. I want to polish up my putting a bit, I have some drills for distance control, I’ll work on that. But my game’s in good shape.” For Murphy, who has been competing in more CSGA and New England events in the past two years, and who made the cut in both the Amateur and Mid-Amateur, it’s been a strong year. “Just being in the same zip code with [Szewczul and Hermanson] in an event or in the Player of the Year race, is an accomplishment.” Jones, who made the semi-finals in last year’s Senior Match Play, was Low Amateur in this year’s Connecticut Senior Open and has three top-five finishes in One Day events, albeit all before August. Mark Vasington, who finished T10 in the Senior Tournament of Champions, will defend the Senior Match Play at Innis Arden.
"I think both [Farmington and Innis Arden] are creative challenges," says Vasington. "The long hitters don’t necessarily have the advantage. It’s going to take good putting and shotmaking, and a short game that's on that week."
Wherever their games are, the seniors' competitive fires remain healthy. Defending Senior Amateur Champion Hermanson, who with Szewczul also won this year’s Senior Four-Ball Championship, summed it up. “It never gets old. Anytime you win a CSGA tournament it’s a big deal and as you get older you appreciate how hard it is even more. No, it will never get old.”
Even when it all happens in September and October.