Darien, Connecticut (July 28, 2021) – After Peter Ballo three-putted for bogey on the opening hole of the final round of the 87th Connecticut Open presented by The Reby Financial Advisory Teams of Wealth Enhancement Group to fall three shots back it didn’t feel like his day. A few holes later after 36-hole leader Ben Carpenter birdied the par-5 4th hole to reach 10-under putting Ballo three back once again it didn’t feel like his day.
“A little bit,” Ballo said when asked if after the start it felt like it might not be his day. However, that feeling didn’t last long. On a gorgeous day at the Country Club of Darien Ballo stormed from behind flipping a three-shot deficit into a five-shot win over Ben James. Ballo fired a final round 5-under 66 to post 12-under for the week.
With the victory Ballo joins his father Mike Ballo, the 1969 and 1978 champion, on the list of Connecticut Open winners. The victory marks the first time in tournament history that a father and son have won the event.
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“I still haven’t quite gathered what this means,” Ballo said of etching his name on the same trophy as his father. “I was able to win the Westchester PGA Match Play which my father won so now to do it twice in a year it is special. I am sure at some point it will hit me but right now it hasn’t hit me.”
The momentum began to swing on the difficult par-4 7th. Leading by three shots Carpenter, playing on his home course, drove it into the left rough finding a buried lie while Ballo split the fairway. With his second shot Carpenter found more trouble pulling it left into the front greenside bunker. Ballo took advantage knocking his approach to five feet setting up his second birdie of the round. When Carpenter bogeyed the hole it was all of a sudden a one-shot difference with Carpenter at 9-under and Ballo at 8-under.
“That swing I had [with my approach shot on] No. 7 really brought me to a different area today with my mind and comfort level,” said Ballo. “I felt fine prior but hitting that shot kind of gave me a different mojo and kick started that birdie barrage.”
Ben James, one of the top junior players in the nation, the third member of the final group finally made some noise on the par-4 8th. Even-par through seven holes and with the tees moved up to 298 yards James drove it just through the green leaving himself 15-feet above the hole. A chip and a putt later he was to 8-under.
Ballo, the assistant professional at Silvermine GC, drove the green as well but faced a sloping 70-foot eagle try. The putt missed but it settled six feet away leading to a second straight birdie that tied Ballo for the lead at 9-under.
On the par-4 9th Carpenter and Ballo parred but James fell off the pace with a double-bogey. He hit his second shot into a greenside bunker and barely got his third shot out. By the time James (Great River GC) finished the hole he had fallen to 6-under and three shots back. He would finish the day 7-under earning second place and low amateur honors.
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“I am pretty excited about my performance. It was awesome [to have the crowds watching]. It is the biggest crowd I have played in front of. I was nervous but I think I handled it well,” James said of his week.
With play now on the back nine, it was a two player race between Ballo and Carpenter. With the crowds swelling to roughly 200 spectators the two headed for the second nine tied at 9-under. Both players parred the par-4 10th keeping things tight with eight holes to play.
On the downhill par-3 11th the tide began to fully swing in Ballo’s favor. His tee shot found the green while Carpenter was plugged in the lip of the left greenside bunker. With no play Carpenter blasted the ball into the rough and ended up with a bogey. Ballo two-putted for par and for the first time since Tuesday morning he was in the lead.
Once he took the lead he didn’t look back. With yells of “Let’s go Petey” ringing from the crowd Ballo jarred a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 13th to push his lead to two. One hole later he saved par from eight feet to pick up another stroke after Carpenter put his tee shot in the water and made bogey.
“Only positives out of the week,” Carpenter said despite a disappointing final round. “Unfortunately I couldn’t pull through. I just had a couple of loose swings that really killed me and I couldn’t catch any momentum. But the first two days of golf I played here were outstanding and I can only take positives out of that.”
Ballo was now comfortably in front sitting at 10-under with four holes remaining. Still looking to extend his lead Ballo kept pushing birdieing the par-5 15th and then he eliminated any doubt on the par-3 16th by stuffing his tee shot to six inches.
The birdie on No. 16 capped a three birdie in four-hole sprint that moved Ballo to 12-under and six shots ahead.
“I just think I was ready to win [the Connecticut Open],” said Ballo last year's runner-up. “I have been close in the past but it is a learning experience. I just think mentally I was ready to win this year.”
Carpenter ended up in third place at 6-under, defending champion Max Theodorakis (Ridgewood CC) played well on Wednesday to move up to fourth place at 4-under while Paul Pastore (Fairview CC) and Blake Morris (CC of Waterbury) shared fifth at 3-under.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Connecticut Open is one of 19 championships conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association. The CSGA functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. Founded in 1899, it is the country’s oldest state golf association and conducts over 60 Championships, Qualifiers, and One Day Tournaments throughout the year.