At sixty years of age, Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club has seen the winner’s circle more than virtually any player in Connecticut golf history. His list of accomplishments could fill this book with ease. He won the Connecticut Mid-Amateur Championship five times (1991-94 and 2001), the Connecticut Amateur Championship in 1991, qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur twice and was the Dick Tettelbach Player of the Year in 1991.
Hermanson’s accomplishments on the course are matched with his extraordinary longevity as a CSGA team member - he has played on twenty-six Julius Boros Challenge Cup squads, twenty-three Tri-State teams and three USGA State Team Match squads. While Hermanson has remained competitive throughout his career, he had not won a CSGA individual championship since winning the Tournament of Champions in 2006. After finishing fourteenth in last year’s Senior Player of the Year race, his only hope was to be competitive again.
"My primary goal for this year was just to be competitive. When you’re younger, you think it’s going to go on forever, but the older you get the more you appreciate how hard it is to win. And if you’ve won in the past, you just hope it happens again."
Perhaps the lone benefit of winter for golfers in the northeast is the opportunity to evaluate one’s game. After a disappointing 2014 campaign, Hermanson knew that his putting was the reason he wasn’t able to compete. His ball striking had remained strong, but a host of three putts and short misses had held him back.
"This spring, I just focused on improving my putting, which has held me back in recent years," said Hermanson. "I went to the claw putting grip and that really changed things for me. It was not like I made every putt I looked at, but I didn’t miss the ones I was supposed to make. In the past I have done that way too often."
Hermanson began the 2015 season by winning the Two Man Team Championship at Black Hall Club with longtime friend and fellow Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame inductee Dave Szewczul of Tunxis Plantation Country Club. The pair captured the title in a playoff over Brent Dietz and Rob Violet, and as Hermanson noted, a return to the winner circle seemed to give him a renewed sense of confidence.
"Winning breeds winning at any level of competition," said Hermanson. "I feel like once we got that first win at the Two-Man Team Championship, I started remembering how to win."
And remember he did. Up next for Hermanson was the Senior Match Play Championship at the Golf Club at Oxford Greens, an event that Szewczul had won four of the last five years. After claiming the #2 seed in stroke play, Hermanson advanced through match play to face Szewczul in the finals. Fifteen holes later, he had unseated the defending champion and claimed his first CSGA individual championship in nearly nine years.
Early on, it was apparent that the race for Senior Player of the Year would be between Hermanson and Szewczul. After all, Szewczul was the six-time defending Senior Player of the Year and currently holds the CSGA record for most individual titles with a total of thirteen CSGA championship victories and two New England Senior Amateur titles. In fact, Szewczul had won his six previous Senior Player of the Year titles by a combined 5,244 points, or an average winning margin of 874 points. Indeed, unseating the perennial favorite would be a tall task.
The two jockeyed for position throughout the year, with Hermanson picking up points at the Russell C. Palmer Cup (T-20th), the Connecticut Senior Open (T-28th) and the Tournament of Champions (T-5th), while Szewczul successfully qualified for a pair of USGA championships, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Senior Amateur. Entering the Connecticut Senior Amateur at Torrington Country Club, the second of two championships for senior golfers on the CSGA schedule, Szewczul held the lead and it appeared that he was headed for his seventh straight title.
But for Hermanson, the Senior Amateur was a confirmation that his new-found putting style was here to stay. On one of the most difficult set of green complexes in the state, Hermanson managed his way around with relative ease. He was able to recover from a potentially disastrous triple-bogey on the 11th hole of his final round and shot rounds of 70-76—146 for a two stroke victory over defending champion Mark Vasington. With Szewczul struggling to a final round 78 and a fourth place finish, the points lead was once again Hermanson’s. But given the way the pair had traded blows throughout the year, it was only fitting that the title would come down to a single putt at the season’s final major championship.
The 28th Connecticut Mid-Amateur Championship was held at Bull’s Bridge Golf Club for the first time in tournament history. It was a course that Szewczul knew well, having won the CSGA Tournament of Champions there in 2014. Trailing by 172 points heading into the Mid-Amateur, Szewczul knew the challenge in front of him was simple – win or go home. A runner-up finish would be worth 160 points, which would leave him short. Similarly, Hermanson could clinch the Senior Player of the Year title with a fifth place finish or better, giving him enough points to put the race out of reach. The stage was set for an epic October finale to the season-long race, and the pair delivered.
Although Hermanson struggled at times throughout the 54-hole stroke play championship, a final round 71 helped catapult him into sixth place for the tournament. However, he finished one stroke outside of the clinching fifth place position, meaning Szewczul still had a chance for his seventh consecutive Senior Player of the Year title. After opening with rounds of 77-71 to trail leader Chet Hrostek of the Golf Club at Oxford Greens by three, he shot a final round 71 to land himself in a playoff for the title. After Hrostek knocked his approach shot to within a few feet for birdie on the first playoff hole, Szewczul faced possble elimination. When his ten foot birdie putt slid by, both the Mid-Amateur (see page 38) and the Senior Player of the Year titles were decided, leaving Hermanson with a narrow victory.
Despite winning a pair of CSGA individual major championships, Hermanson’s favorite moment of the season was undoubtedly winning the Two-Man Team Championship. He teams up annually with Szewczul in the event, but the pair had yet to win the tournament since it was renamed to honor Hermanson in 2008.
"Winning the team championship with Dave this year was really special," said Hermanson. "It’s at my home course and we hadn’t won it since the CSGA renamed the tournament in my honor. There were obviously a lot of good moments this year, but that one was really special for me."
2015 marked Hermanson’s first CSGA Senior Player of the Year title and with the honor, he became just the second player in CSGA history to win both the Tettelbach and Siderowf Player of the Year titles, sharing the unique distinction with none other than Szewczul. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
"We go back a long way, we have been friends, teammates and partners for over thirty-seven years. He was the best man at my wedding, and we know each other’s games better than anybody else. He had a great year himself and it is just the way things worked out."
|Rank||Player||Club Name||Total Points|
|1||Hermanson, Bill||Black Hall Club||1263.00|
|2||Szewczul, Dave||Tunxis Plantation CC||1193.50|
|3||Vasington, Mark||Wampanoag CC||465.00|
|4||McLoughlin, Shawn||Ridgewood CC||412.50|
|5||Bracken, Jack||Hartford GC||364.00|
|6||Romaniello, James||Shorehaven GC||292.00|
|7||Geiger, Frank||H. Smith Richardson GC||275.00|
|8||Newman, Scott||Wampanoag CC||182.00|
|9||Wilczewski, Richard||Shennecossett GC||170.00|
|10||Durand, Mark||Wethersfield CC||165.00|
|11||Underwood, Ray||Torrington CC||150.00|
|12||Yellin, Tom||The Stanwich Club||148.00|
|13||Brett, Tom||Tallwood CC||133.25|
|14||Groveman, Jon||The Connecticut GC||125.00|
|15||Blovish, David||Ellington Ridge CC||120.00|
|16||Kraczkowsky, Bruce||Blue Fox Run||117.00|
|T17||Bedini, Luke||GC at Oxford Greens||100.00|
|T17||Lee, William||TC at Yale||100.00|
|T19||McCorkill, Rod||Cedar Knob GC||95.00|
|T19||Palmer, John||Grassy Hill CC||95.00|
|T19||Shepard, Steve||Burning Tree CC||95.00|
|T19||Shildneck, Douglas||Great River GC||95.00|