With eighteen holes left to play in the 79th Connecticut Open Championship, Jeff Curl of Ellington, Conn. holds a three shot lead after a pair of 67’s and is poised to capture his second Connecticut Open Championship. The state’s top open event is being held July 29th-31st at the 6,589 yard, par 72 Torrington Country Club.
After holding a share of the overnight lead following a stellar five under-par round of 67 on day one, Curl saw his lead evaporate before he even started his second round. Jason Caron, the 2012 defending champion from Greenwich, Conn., posted a six under-par round of 66 to take the early lead. However, the experience veteran and 2007 Connecticut Open Champion, used Caron’s start as motivation.
“I’ve had enough tournament experience to know that no lead is safe, especially when you tee off late on the second day,” said Curl. “I actually enjoy seeing the scores before I tee off, and if anything, seeing Jason get off to the start he did actually encouraged me, knowing that low scores were out there.”
Despite a steady wind that increased as the day went on, Curl got off to the start he needed, making birdies on his first three holes to reclaim the lead by one. Another birdie on the 7th hole gave him a two shot lead heading into the back nine.
The key point in the round came at the par-3 11th hole. After making his first bogey of the tournament on the 10th hole, Curl pulled his 6-iron left on the par-3 11th. “I actually hit a provisional thinking it was out of play,” said Curl. Luckily, it was in-bounds, and instead of a potential disaster, he salvaged a bogey four.
“I hadn’t made a bogey all week, so to drop from nine under, thinking that we were cruising, to seven [under] was definitely a wake-up call and I struggled for four or five holes with my energy level,” said Curl.
On one of the more difficult stretches of the course, Curl rebounded strong with a birdie on #12, followed by a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and a seemingly improbably fifty foot putt on the 17th to finish with his second consecutive 67. After yesterday’s bogey free round, it was certainly a much different path, but an equally impressive round. Only three players have shot lower than 68 all week, which is surely attributed to the difficulty that the greens at Torrington Country Club present.
“Today, I thought they [the greens] were really tough, combined with the wind and the pin placements,” said Curl. “The penalty for missing it in the wrong spot is so severe, and with the uncertainty that the wind presents, it was definitely a challenge.”
Curl will begin the final round with a three shot lead over defending champion Jason Caron. After posting the low round of the championship, he is certainly within striking distance. Caron recorded a total of seven birdies on his round, which included birdies on four of his first five holes.
“I just hung in there, played smart golf, and didn’t do anything crazy,” said Caron. “I hit a couple of great shots and made some nice putts at the right time”
Caron is seeking to become just the twelfth player in Connecticut Open history to successfully defend their title, a feat last accomplished by Nick Cook in 2005 and 2006.
“It’s great to be announced as defending champion, but as soon they announce it, I’m ready to play golf and get into my zone,” said Caron.
Four professionals – William Downes, Jim St. Pierre, Brian Steger and Tommy McDonagh all sit just four shots back at six under-par 138. McDonagh, a two-time Connecticut Amateur Champion from East Norwalk, Conn., recently turned professional last year and is looking to build on memories from his amateur days. He captured his first Connecticut Amateur title in 2006 here at Torrington Country Club, defeating the 2013 Connecticut Amateur Champion Cody Paladino in 39 holes.
Also among those tied for third is St. Pierre, the 2002 Connecticut Open Champion, who fired rounds of 70-68 for a six under-par total. St. Pierre, an Assistant PGA Professional at Redding Country Club, is no stranger to the big stage, having successfully qualified for three straight Travelers Championship’s from 2005-07.
The final round will begin at 8:00 a.m. in twosomes, with the leaders teeing off at 11:40 a.m. Live hole-by-hole scoring will be available for the leading groups online at ConnecticutOpen.com.
Low Amateur Watch
After trailing by only one stroke following an impressive 68 on day one, Jeff Hogan of Watertown Golf Club currently stands tied for the low amateur with Blake Morris of the Country Club of Waterbury. Hogan, a rising Junior at Fordham University, shot a round of one-over 73. Hogan is playing in his first Connecticut Open and despite finishing his round with a double bogey five on the par-3 17th, he stands just seven strokes back of the leader.
Also looking to capture the Low Amateur honor and his first CSGA Championship title is Blake Morris, who fired a round of one under-par 71 to jump into a tie for eighth. Morris is hoping to add the Connecticut Open title to his already impressive resume. Morris currently attends Ole Miss University, where he led the team’s scoring average, and recently qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship, which will begin next week at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
Both Hogan and Morris are hoping to make a big move in the final round, and are seeking to become the first amateur since 2008 to win the Connecticut Open Championship.
This year’s starting field of 150 players was trimmed to just the 45 competitors following the conclusion of play on Tuesday. Each year, the lowest 40 competitors, plus ties, advance to play the final round of stroke play on the third and final day.
The cut line was projected at 146 (+2) at the start of the day, after day one showed 41 players at 73 (+1) or better. However, a steady, cool breeze saw the scoring average increase by over a half shot to 76.3, which jumped the projected cut to 148 (+4) after the morning wave. Players and spectators alike spent much of the day watching the projected cut, hoping it would move another stroke higher.
At day’s end, the cut line fell at four over-par 148 (+4). All professional players who make the cut earn a paycheck, with the winner taking home the first-place professional prize of $12,500.
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.