Jack Bracken of Hartford Golf Club fired an impressive 3 under-par round of 69 to grab the first round lead at the 68th Connecticut Senior Amateur Championship. He leads by four shots over Jon Groveman of Connecticut Golf Club and Mark Powers of Alling Memorial Golf Course, both of whom shot one over-par rounds of 73.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Connecticut Senior Amateur Championship is presented by Johnson Brunetti and is a 36-hole stroke play competition being played at Tallwood Country Club on Monday and Tuesday, September 23rd and 24th. The championship is open to Connecticut senior golfers who are fifty five years of age and over by the start of the event. The par-72 layout was originally founded in 1974 and is set up to play at a total of 6,287 yards for the competitors.
On a classic Fall day in New England where gusty winds and cool temperatures were the story, Bracken capitalized on the back nine to post an incredible bogey-free round of three under-par 69 that featured three birdies on the back nine.
Bracken began his round with his hardest par save of the day. After hitting his second shot into the trees on the par-5 1st hole, he missed the green short-right in the bunker. Known for his deft touch around the greens, he hit his bunker shot to within six inches for tremendous up-and-down par save.
“Making the save for par on the first hole was a big boost for me,” said Bracken. “I hit my third shot into the bunker and hit an incredible sand shot up for a tap-in. After that, the round was really smooth, and I really had only one long putt for par all day.”
After his par save at the 1st, he rattled off eleven more par's before making birdie on the difficult par-4 13th hole to grab the outright lead at one under-par. He nearly gave it back on the next hole, but made a curling eight foot putt for par. Bracken proceeded to close his round with birdies on 17 and 18, hitting both approaches within ten feet from the hole. His inward nine of three under-par 34 is quite impressive, especially given the fact that the back nine played nearly two shots harder than the front nine.
On the bag caddying for Bracken is friend and professional golfer Eric Steger of Rocky Hill, Conn., who recently lost in a playoff for the 79th Connecticut Open title at Torrington Country Club. Steger recently returned from trips to Missouri and Nebraska, where he was competing in state opens and mini-tour events.
“It was great having Eric on the bag today,” said Bracken. “He’s a tremendous player, so it was a big help having him as my caddy. We came out with a solid plan, and he really just calmed me down and helped me relax.”
Bracken is coming off a recent victory in the prestigious Hartford GC Club Championship, where he became the oldest player to win the title, and the first to win in four different decades. He is a longtime member at Hartford Golf Club, and winning the championship helped relieve the pressure of playing for the Senior Amateur Championship.
“I’ve been playing really well all year, and winning the Club Championship two weeks ago was a great accomplishment for me,” Bracken said. “I’m just trying to go out there tomorrow, have fun, and see what happens.”
While Bracken’s lead is four, he is being chased by a host of Connecticut's top senior golfers, with a total of fifteen players standing within six shots of the lead. Among Bracken’s many chasers are Greg Karakashian of Stanley Golf Course, the 2006 Connecticut Senior Amateur Champion, and Bob Spaniotis, current leader in the Dick Siderowf One Day Player of the Year Points race. Both Karakashian and Spaniotis shot rounds of 74 and are five shots behind in a tie for fourth place.
This year’s starting field of eighty seven players was trimmed to the low forty competitors, plus ties, following the conclusion of the first round. The cut was initially projected at 77 (+5), but as the winds increased and the temperature dropped, it rose a full two shots to fall at 79 (+7). A total of forty eight players made the cut and will play the second and final round tomorrow, Tuesday, September 24th.
The final round will be an 8:30 a.m. shotgun, with the leaders beginning on Hole #1. Live hole-by-hole scoring will be available for the leading groups online at CTSeniorAm.com.