Week of May 1st Tee Times

A Thinking Man’s Test

Norwalk (June 21, 2020) In an age when young players routinely drive the ball 300 yards and courses are stretched to 7500 yards and beyond to keep up, how will Shorehaven, which will host the 118th Connecticut Amateur, survive?

Call it guile.

At 6550-plus yards, par 71, Shorehaven demands both shot-making and sharp thinking, good players tell you, and still you need a few breaks.

“It starts with the par 3s. The par 3s are outstanding” says Dick Siderowf, the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame member who won the Connecticut Open here in 1959 and the Connecticut Amateur in 1960 of Shorehaven’s five one-shotters, which range from about 165 to 235. “Short, long, uphill, downhill. Take No. 2,” one of two of the five par 3s that measures less than 200 but plays severely uphill. “You might say it’s short, but it’s very tricky. You really have to get to know that hole well to play it well.”

By week’s end survivors will know Shorehaven, designed by Robert White,  well. They will play 36 holes of stroke play on Monday to determine the 32 who reach match play. There will be two matches on Tuesday, quarterfinals and semifinals on Wednesday, and a 36-hole final on Thursday. The field has been reduced from the usual 120 to 78 to accommodate pandemic restrictions, the club’s schedule, and the need to tee off on both No. 1 and No. 10 on Monday to get the qualifying in. Caddies will be allowed, but spectators not. Flagsticks and holes will be back to normal, with rakes in place.

It’s in the head-head battles from Tuesday through the final that Shorehaven will show its cunning, players say.

“It’s a great match-play course,” says Siderowf. He cites Shorehaven’s finish as one of the reasons, beginning with No. 15, another “shortish” par 3 (160-170) with a tiered green.  “Fifteen is a tricky shot into the wind coming toward the end of the round with the pressure on. Sixteen is a par 5 you can reach, but you can also get into loads of trouble right and left. Seventeen is just a really good par 3 [about 200 yards] played usually into the wind. And [par 4] 18 is not long, but if you hit it in the wrong place off the tee you’ve got no shot at all. You have to chip and putt around that place.”

Head professional Mike Laganza suggests that the “finish” may start even sooner, especially in match play. “I think it really begins on 13,” he says, of the 220-yard-plus par 3 that follows back-to-back and “getable” par 5s. “Fourteen [335 yards] is short, but if you put your tee shot in the wrong place, you’ve got no shot.” Though the rough will be slightly thinnner than usual, due to sparsity of rain, it will lush enough to make spinning the ball from it difficult. 

Players agree that the par 5s—Nos. 1, 11 and 12, with only No. 11 significantly over 500 yards —offer a chance to make up ground, but only if you drive the ball accurately, away from trees and thick rough. They warn against taking Shorehaven’s short par 4s for granted. “Take No. 6,” says Jerry Courville, Jr. who has played the course for 60 years, often teaming with his late Hall-of-Fame father Jerry Courville Sr., of the par four that plays to about 325 yards. “If the hole is over the bunker on the right on the little tongue of the green in the front, you cannot get to it if you hit driver and get too close to the green. I might hit 5-iron so I can hit something full into there. If the flag’s in the back, it’s a different story. You might be able to run something up. So you really have to play attention to the hole locations.”

And even when you do, says Bill Hermanson, the Hall of Fame member and 2019 Senior Amateur Champion who lost the previous Senior Am at Shorehaven by a shot, you will have your hands full. “It’s not just a matter of keeping the ball under the hole, you have to keep the ball directly under the hole. Side hill putts there are very difficult. I think of the 9th, where I had putts across that green during the Senior Amateur. They were brutal.”

What complicates the challenge at Shorehaven, adjacent to the Long Island Sound, is the inevitable wind. “I say Shorehaven is challenging for two reasons,” says T.J. Trimboli, the 2008 Public Links Champion who has won several tournaments at Shorehaven. “The par 3s and the wind. And the wind here is curious. It tends not to swirl. It comes straight at you.” No. 17, to Trimboli, is the ultimate combination, a punch that comes late in the round and one that could decide many matches.

Winds of plus-10 miles an hour are predicted for the first three days of the Amateur, close to 10 miles an hour on the final day.

The marathon that is the Connecticut Amateur tends to favor young bodies and young nerves, most players told us, and those include 2019 runner-up and UConn star Chandler Morris, as well as Nick Harrington, a recent UConn grad, Hartford Golf Club’s Matt Chorches and college All-Amerian, Chris Fosdick. But mid-amateurs, who may have more experience with Shorehaven’s tricks, have their own edge: Defending Champion Rick Dowling, Cody Paladino, former U.S. Mid-Amateur medalist Brad Tilley, the Bens—Day and Conroy and Jason Jaworoski, a member who made last year’s round of 16 among them. “People say it’s a shot-maker’s course,” says Courville. “But I call it a thinking man’s course.”

As for the fatigue factor, multiple-major champion Siderowf, now in his 80s, smiles. “Sure I guess the young guys always have an advantage. But I hear guys complaining about 36 and getting tired. My feeling is you get tired if you lose. If you’re winning, you’re not tired. The tired ones are the ones getting beat.”

Perhaps the ultimate proof of Shorehaven’s strength is that the two winners of Amateurs here, Siderowf in 1960 and Fred Kask in 1980, are both in the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.

Don’t be surprised if the 2020 winner joins them someday.