Wallingford, Connecticut (August 9, 2021) – Usually a key to any good round of golf is greens in regulation. On day one of the 34th Connecticut Mid-Amateur it was greens in regulation optional for first round leader John Abbott.
The 2019 Connecticut Public Links champion hit just one green in regulation over his last four holes but he birdied them all to surge into the lead after day one at The Farms Country Club.
“I was playing well all round for the most part. My tee shots weren’t great but my putter was really solid,” said Abbott who fired a 5-under 67 to take a one shot lead. “Then the last four holes that was basically like you blackout and then you wake up like it was a dream.”
1-under after 14 holes Abbott (Indian Hill Country Club) started his roller coaster ride to the house with a hole out birdie from a greenside bunker on No. 15. He followed that up with a conventional 12-footer for birdie on the par-3 16th to move to 3-under. However, “on the last two holes I went from two really good birdies to unbelievable,” said Abbott.
Off the tee on the par-4 17th, he missed the fairway left and then hit his second shot into the fringe 25-feet from the hole. With the rough resting against the back of his putter Abbott was hoping to nestle his third shot close for a par. Instead, it hit off the pin and dropped in for a third straight birdie.
On the par-5 18th, his third shot from 170 yards came to rest on the fringe 50-feet past the cup. Hoping again for a two-putt par Abbott once again found the bottom of the cup to cap his run of remarkable birdies. “It was really unbelievable,” an ecstatic Abbott said after his round. “This is where I feel like it is kind of a dream at this point.”
For Abbott, playing in his first Connecticut Mid-Amateur, this week was designed as a chance to play some good golf before leaving for Los Angeles to work in the film industry next week. Now he has a chance to make it a championship winning week.
“Before Covid I went out to LA to work on film sets and then Covid hit so all the sets that I got hired to film on got canceled so I had to come right back,” Abbott said. “So I came into today thinking it will be one of my last rounds of golf before the Father Son on Thursday with my Dad and I was just like let’s go out and have fun and try to put up a couple of good numbers. Really I am hoping to go out tomorrow and put up a couple of more good scores before I have to fly out and probably hang up the clubs for a little bit.”
Eric Bleile (EClub of Connecticut) will begin the second round one shot off the pace following a 4-under 68. For Bleile, it was a nearly flawless day that saw the modern country singer roll in five birdies while bogeying just once on the 17th hole.
“If I had been able to knock it on the green on No. 17 and two-putted it would have been one of the best rounds of my life. But 4-under, you can’t shake a stick at it,” Bleile who plays the guitar and sings vocals for Hazzard County said.
The key to Bleile’s first round success was his flat stick, on the day he estimated he rolled in 150-feet worth of putts including a 20-footer on No. 1 that got his round started. For Bleile being a contention is a familiar feeling. Last year at the Russell C. Palmer Cup he was in the mix late and at the Connecticut Public Links he was T5. The 44-year-old hopes to learn from those experiences.
“I think because I am a little older now that I am a little more patient. I think tomorrow if I can keep it in play, keep the grip loose, and keep getting the ball in the hole I have a chance.”
A trio of players sit in a tie for third to round out the top-5 heading into Tuesday’s 36-hole final day. The group includes Peter Tomlinson (Orange Hills Country Club), Rick Dowling (EClub of Connecticut), and Daniel Murphy (H. Smith Richardson).
Play will resume on Tuesday morning with the second round beginning at 7:30 a.m. The final round will follow in the afternoon.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Connecticut Mid-Amateur is one of 19 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 60 Championships, Qualifiers, and One Day Tournaments throughout the year.