Jessica Carafiello of Stamford, Conn. and Innis Arden Golf Club birdied three of her final four holes to capture her first Connecticut Women’s Open title at Round Hill Club. Carafiello posted rounds of 69-71—140 for a two under par total, edging Elizabeth Breed of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania by two strokes.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Connecticut Women’s Open is a 36-hole stroke play competition played at Round Hill Club in Greenwich, Connecticut on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 31st and June 1st. The tournament is open to any amateur or professional female golfer regardless of residency, and annually attracts some of the top competitors from across the country. This year’s field was perhaps the strongest to date, attracting competitors from thirteen different states and three countries.
After an opening round of two under-par 69, Carafiello began the day with a three-stroke lead over a pair of professionals, Ashli Bunch of Morristown, Tennessee and 2008 Champion Lynn Valentine of East Lyme, Conn., both of whom shot rounds of one over-par 72. Carafiello extended her lead to as many as four midway through the front nine, but winning a championship of this caliber would not come easy. She suffered a trio of bogies on the 8th and 11th and 14th holes, and suddenly, her early cushion had evaporated.
“I missed a few iron shots, but I made a couple of good up and downs and mentally I stayed in the moment the whole time,” said Carafiello. “I was thinking if I could finish strongly I would have a pretty good chance to win.”
Playing in the final group with Carafiello, Ashli Bunch made a strong move on the back nine, including a pair of birdies on the 10th and 11th holes to pull even with Carafiello at even-par for the championship heading into the par-5 15th hole. However, an untimely three-putt bogey on the 15th hole, combined with a birdie by Carafiello, dropped Bunch back out of contention with just three holes to play.
Also making a charge during the final round was Elizabeth Breed, who after opening with a round of 73, managed to play steady throughout the afternoon and slowly climb the leaderboard. A timely pair of birdies on the 15th and 18th holes helped her to a two-under par 69, posting even-par for the championship with the leaders on the course.
No doubt the shot of the tournament came on the par-3 17th hole. Standing on the tee, Carafiello was coming off a three-putt bogey on the 16th, and with Breed subsequently make birdie on her final hole in the group ahead, Carafiello again found herself tied for the lead. Playing at 147 yards with a back-left hole location, her shot hit twenty behind the hole and with a crowd of family and friends watching, the ball trickled ever slow slowly down the slope to within a foot, leaving her a tap-in birdie.
However, Carafiello would still need to par the closing hole, which played as the second most difficult hole in the first round. After striping her tee shot down the middle of the fairway, a mediocre approach left her a difficult birdie putt from forty feet above the hole.
“I knew I needed to two-putt to win, so my strategy was just to play enough break and have good enough speed to get it close,” said Carafiello.
She did one better, watching her birdie putt roll end-over-end as it trickled into the hole with perfect pace, securing a two-stroke victory and her first Women’s Open title. The win adds to her impressive resume which includes a victory at the 2014 Women’s Met Open Championship. Last August, she successfully qualified for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which begins next week at Sahalee Country Club.
Carafiello’s finish will go down as one of the best in recent Women’s Open history, as she birdied three of the final four holes under pressure en-route to her two stroke victory. She successfully navigated the difficult set of green complexes at Round Hill Club, known as some of the toughest in the state.
“The greens were really challenging out there,” said Carafiello. “The pin placements were testing, and if you didn’t pay attention and put your ball in the right spot, you were going to have a difficult two putt, so you really had to be smart with your approach shots.”
Finishing runner-up was Breed, and while she was unable to catch the eventual champion, was certainly pleased with the way she played in her first appearance at the Women’s Open.
“To finish your last four holes at two under-par in a tournament like this, it feels really good and I can’t complain about the way I played”, said Breed.
Amateur Catherine McEvoy of Riverside, Conn. helped cap off a clean sweep for Innis Arden GC, shooting rounds of 75-74—149 to earn low amateur honors and a tie for 8th place. Finishing low amateur at the Women’s Open adds to her already impressive resume, as McEvoy is the defending Connecticut Women’s Amateur Champion, a title she won last year at Indian Hill CC at just seventeen years of age.