Wallingford (July 30, 2020) The way to handle a better ball competition at Wallingford Country Club, one member in the field said, was to survive the more difficult front nine near par, and then attack the shorter back nine, where birdies are plentiful. One team, for example, went seven under on the back after only six holes.
Or, you can do it the way the champions of the 80th Connecticut Four-Ball did it. Chris Durocher and Corey Mitchener shot 30 (-5) on the front, 31 (-5) on the back and reached their target of ten-under 61. Durocher made five birdies and an eagle. Mitchener made five birdies as well, starting at the difficult 440-yard No. 1. Durocher added a birdie at No. 3, an eagle at the par-5 fifth, and a birdie at 9.
“We got hot early,” said Chris Durocher of Trumbull. “And our goal all along was 10-under. I’ve played in the U.S. Four-Ball and I know you have to get to double figures.” Mitchener said that fast start kept them focused on that goal. “When you’re playing well like that, you relax. And then you play better.”
After Mitchener made their final birdie at 17 and they reached double figures, the team played the longish par-4 18th carefully. Many aggressive approaches had bounded well over the green. “That green is really firm and you have to hit your approach to the front and if it doesn’t bounce back to the [right back] flag, so be it,” said Mitchener. He had not played a practice round, but his partner Durocher had. He lagged to a couple of feet and settled for par.
It was a strategy that worked, but just barely.
Five groups behind the eventual winners Jamie Sheltman of Alling Memorial and Dan Murphy of H. Smith Richardson came to the hole nine under after Murphy had birdied the 17th. Sheltman, who did not make a bogey on his own ball all day, had a long putt to tie—at least 30 feet—and came close, but missed. “We knew where we stood,” said Murphy. “We knew we needed it.”
In the group before that, Aaron Wheeling, Patrick Griffin’s partner, chipped in from behind the green to reach nine under.
The team of Joe Serrantino, a Wallingford member, and Taylor Griffin of Torrington Country Club made eight birdies and an eagle between them and but for a bogey at the par-3 10th, would have been there, too. They finished eight under, shooting 29 on the front nine, with Serrantino making consecutive birdies on Nos. 7, 8 and 9. (Another 29 by the team of Mike Kennedy and Nick Waddington, on the back nine, was more evidence that greens were “perfect” as Kennedy put it.)
For Durocher, who lives in Trumbull, it is already a special summer despite the pandemic and even before Thursday’s victory. In September, he’ll marry fiancee Beth Rheiner. Durocher’s best man has been his U.S. Four-Ball partner—they played the 2018 Four-Ball at Jupiter Hills in Florida—but when Mitchener, a client from Stratford, began working on his conditioning with Durocher, an Equinox personal trainer specializing in golf, they decided to give the Connecticut Four-Ball a try. “Hey, maybe he’s got a new partner now,” kidded Mitchener when it was over.
The two have a lot in common. Until the pandemic, Mitchener also worked for Equinox, in sales. Both are former professionals who have regained their amateur status. Durocher turned professional in 2014, and became an amateur again in 2014. Mitchener never officially became a club professional, but served as an assistant at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey and at the Bear’s Club in Jupiter. Durocher was an assistant at Old Marsh Golf Club in Jupiter.
“I knew I wanted to be involved in golf, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to turn it into a job,” said Mitchener. “I love where I’m at now,” said Durocher. “I love competing like this and I love the work I’m doing.”
And things always look brighter when you shoot ten under.
Note: The Connecticut Four-Ball is traditionally played at the Course at Yale, but this year, due to COVID-19, Yale has yet to open. CSGA Executive Director Mike Moraghan and Director of Competition Ryan Hoffman expressed their gratitude to the staff and membership of Wallingford for hosting the event. Wallingford has often served as a qualifier for the Russell C. Palmer Cup.