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Dave Szewczul of Tunxis Plantation CC captured the 32nd Connecticut Public Links Championship presented by Lincoln Motor Company, shooting rounds of 70-71—141 for a one under-par total on the par-71 layout at Norwich Golf Course.
After a tough start by overnight leader Jacob Henny, the tournament was wide open for the taking. Mid-way through the final round, a total of fourteen players were within two shots of the lead. Among those contenders was Szewczul, who capitalized early to jump out to an early lead before an unfortunate double-bogey on the par-3 ninth hole brought him back to the field.
“I birdied the first hole which got me off to a good start, and I knew I’d have to play steady and shoot even-par or better to have a chance,” said Szewczul. “I had some indecision on #9 and unfortunately I hit the wrong club. But when you make a double [bogey], you have to just move on. I felt confident enough and I had been swinging well all week.”
At sixty-three years of age, Szewczul has plenty of experience dealing with all types of adversity on the course, and he knows that fairways and greens are always the recipe for success. He played near perfect golf on his inward nine, overcoming the difficulties of trying to win by making two birdies and just one bogey for a closing round of 71. And as the pressure mounted and the contenders slowly faded, a familiar name was left standing at the top of the leaderboard.
“I felt like if I just stuck to my game plan, I’d have a chance,” said Szewczul. “I drove it really well all week which didn’t put a lot of pressure on the rest of my game. A few of the putts didn’t drop, but thankfully enough did to get the job done.”
In a state that has been home to legendary golfers – Julius Boros, Richard Siderowf, and Jerry Courville to name a few – being mentioned as one of the best in Connecticut Golf history takes victories and longevity. The 2010 Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame inductee took another step toward legendary status with his record fifth Connecticut Public Links Championship. Szewczul won his first Public Links title in 1992, and has also won the Connecticut Amateur, Mid-Amateur, Senior Amateur, Senior Match Play, Tournament of Champions and New England Senior Amateur championships in a career that spans more than five decades.
“To win another championship means a lot. It means that I’m healthy enough to keep competing and healthy enough to test my game, which is most important,” said Szewczul. “It’s really fun to still be able to compete against the young kids.”
Next up for Szewczul is the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, a tournament which he advanced to the quarterfinals in 2013. The tournament begins August 26th at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
While a bogey on the final hole would cost Nick Waddington the title, it was nonetheless an impressive performance for the rising star from Manchester CC. Waddington was hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father Derek, who won the Public Links Championship in 1999 at Richter Park. Unfortunately, his four birdies in his final round were matched with six bogies, including a bogey on the finishing hole that left him one stroke shy.
Tied with Waddington for runner-up was Hector Gutierrez of Great River GC and Jeff Delucia of Norwich Golf Course, each of whom were trying to etch their names in CSGA history. Gutierrez, who was playing in his very first CSGA championship, made a clutch birdie on the 17th hole and narrowly missed holing a chip-shot on the final hole to force a playoff. Despite coming up just short, the rising junior at Sacred Heart University hopes to take the momentum into his fall tournament season.
Delucia charged up the leaderboard in front of his friends and family, shooting a final round 68 to send shockwaves to the leading groups. He holed a pitch shot on the par-5 14th hole for eagle and birdied the difficult par-3 16th to jump into a tie for lead, but a bogey on the par-4 17th left him at even par for the championship. Nevertheless a strong showing for a player who was looking to become the first player in nearly thirty years to win the Public Links on his home course.
2014 Connecticut Public Links Champion Glen Boggini of Twin Hills CC shot rounds of 71-72—143 to round out the top five finishers. A total of thirty three players advanced to play the final round after Wednesday’s cut.
A historic day for a historic club
The 32nd playing of the Connecticut Public Links Championship also a marked the first CSGA major championship contested at Norwich Golf Course. The course, which was founded in 1910 and is owned by the City of Norwich, has hosted numerous CSGA qualifiers and most recently hosted the Father & Son Championship in 2013, but had yet to host the state’s top players for a multi-day championship. CSGA Past President John Marion first proposed the idea to the Norwich Golf Authority, and was instrumental in bringing the tournament to the facility.
“The fact that so many club members volunteered to help with the tournament is a clear indication that the club and the Authority understands the importance of supporting public golf and the CSGA. This is what the game of golf is all about. Head Professional Mike Svab and Head Superintendent Bruce Morse put forth a great effort in making sure that the tournament was a success and every detail was accounted for.”
It only seems fitting that Norwich GC’s first major championship would be the Public Links Championship, a tournament that honors the true spirit of public golf in the state. Unlike the Connecticut Amateur or Russell C. Palmer Cup, which attracts top players from both public and private clubs, the Connecticut Public Links features the very best of those who play their golf exclusively at public courses. The championship attracts every type of golfer, from bus drivers and firemen to engineers and high school teachers to compete in a two-day stroke play championship.
The tournament is open to Connecticut amateur golfers who, since January 1st of the current year, have been bona fide public-course players, and who hold a USGA Handicap index not exceeding 9.0. The inaugural championship was played at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain, Conn. and won by Del Kinney, Jr. of Tunxis Plantation Country Club.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Connecticut Public Links Championship is one of 18 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 50 Championships, Qualifiers and One-Day Tournaments throughout the year. For more information, visit our website at csgalinks.org.