Jeff Curl of Ellington, Conn. birdied the first hole to win a four-way playoff and capture the 79th Connecticut Open Championship. The state’s top open event was held July 29th-31st at the 6,589 yard, par 72 Torrington Country Club.
The road to victory for Curl was not an easy one. At the start of the day, it appeared that one of only a handful of players had a chance to catch his three shot lead. The overnight leader and 2007 Connecticut Open Champion, he posted consecutive rounds of 67 for an impressive two-round total of ten-under par.
However, Ben Conroy of Durham, Conn., had other plans. Beginning the day ten strokes back and a full ninety minutes ahead of the leaders, Conroy sent shockwaves through the course as he made the turn in four under before making birdies on #11, 12, 15 and 16 to grab the outright lead at eight-under par.
Even with his final round charge, he couldn’t have taken the lead without some help from the leaders. Curl began his final round in a disastrous way, making bogey on the par-3 3rd hole before making a triple bogey 7 on the 4th hole. His three shot lead had vanished, and suddenly Conroy was the one that everyone was chasing.
“It was one of those days, the putts went in and everything went my way,” said Conroy. “When I saw the leaderboard on the 14th tee, I was one stroke back and at that point, I knew I was in it.”
Although Conroy would make a bogey on the final hole to finish the tournament at seven under, he posted an unbelievable round of 65 to set the new competitive course record at Torrington Country Club.
Seeing Conroy post seven-under par, Curl made his move on the back nine. He made birdies on Holes #6, 10, 12, and 14 to get back to ten under-par for the tournament. Even after an early slip, Curl had regained control and with a two shot lead standing on the 17th tee, it was seemingly all but over.
After missing the green on #17 and making bogey, Curl blocked his tee shot right on #18. Forced to pitch out, he hit his 3rd shot to thirty feet. Needing only two putts for the victory, he left his first putt five feet short and missed the putt for the win.
“It just kept unraveling. All day, I felt like it was my tournament to win if I could hang in there long enough,” said Curl. “Coming off the 18th green, I can’t remember a time when I’ve been that down on myself.”
Curl suddenly found himself in a four-way playoff with Conroy, William Downes of Longmeadow, Mass. And Eric Steger of Rocky Hill, Conn. Beginning on Hole #1, Conroy, Steger and Curl all hit the green, with Downes just short in the fringe.
After Conroy and Steger lagged their putts to within a few feet of the hole, it was Curl’s time to shine. With just over 35 feet left for birdie, he made the putt of the tournament. “I didn’t even see it go in,” said Curl. “Five feet out, I knew it was in and just started running.”
Downes was the only player left who could force another playoff hole, and after his chip slid by, Curl was the 79th Connecticut Open Champion.
“This is awesome,” said a teary-eyed Curl. “To win in 2007 meant a ton, being sponsored by Foxwoods and winning on my home course. But this one, considering the injuries and what I’ve been through, is increidble. To make a double and triple bogey in the final round and to be standing here with the trophy is unbelievable.”
Low Amateur Honors
Jeff Hogan of Watertown Golf Club took home low amateur honors after shooting rounds of 68-73-71 for a four under-par total of 212. Hogan finished in a tie for eighth place, two clear of John VanDerLaan, who was the next lowest amateur at two-under par. Hogan, a rising junior at Fordham University, was playing in his first Connecticut Open Championship, and made it a memorable one at that. After an opening 68, Hogan was poised to have a chance to become the first amateur since Jeff Hedden in 2008 to capture the championship.
Two competitive course records were broken during the week. Jason Caron, the 2012 defending champion, fired a six-under 66 in the second round on Tuesday to set the new competitive course record at Torrington Country Club. His round was matched early in the final round by John VanDerLaan of Heritage Village Country Club, who used his 66 to jump into a tie for 14th place.
Not long after VanDerLaan finished, Ben Conroy shot a round of seven-under 65 to claim a share of the lead. Although his round stands as the new competitive course record at Torrington Country Club, it is still two shots short of the course record set by Dick Weigold, 1974 Connectiuct Amateur Champion and member of the host committee for this year’s Open Championship. Weigold shot a round of nine-under 63 in 1964, a record that stayed intact throughout the week.
About the Event
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Connecticut Open is the only CSGA Championship that is open to both amateurs and professionals. The tournament tests the state’s top golfers over three rounds of stroke play at the renowned Torrington Country Club in Goshen, Connecticut. The total purse for the tournament is $50,000, with the professional champion capturing a winner’s check of $12,500.