(February 28, 2022) – For the ninth time the Connecticut Open will be played at New Haven Country Club. The Willie Park, Jr. design first hosted the Connecticut Open in 1934 and most recently hosted the event in 2018. This year the Connecticut Open will return from July 25-27 to the course where some of the most notable names in Connecticut golf history have been victorious.
In 1934 John Golden won the third of his four consecutive Connecticut Open titles. The Connecticut Golf Hall of Famer set a new tournament scoring record with a 72 hole total of 286 but still needed a final round 69 to hold off Bobby Grant by a single stroke.
From 1923 to1939 Harry Cooper won 30 events on the PGA Tour. His final victory at the Goodall Palm Beach Round Robin came the same year he won his only Connecticut Open title. In the final two rounds of the 72 hole event Cooper blitzed the field firing rounds of 68-66 and in the process set a new tournament scoring record. His four-round total of 279 bested the previous mark by four shots. Cooper also broke the New Haven CC competitive round scoring mark twice, previously the record had been 69.
Cooper, born in England and known by the nickname of Lighthorse Harry, became a renowned teacher after he retired from competitive golf and he was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.
Three players finished tied for the lead after the completion of the final round of the 1949 Connecticut Open. The group included defending champion Frank J. Staszowski, Mickey Homa, and Al Labutis. However, crowning a winner would have to wait until the following Sunday when an 18 hole playoff would be conducted.
In the playoff “big Frank Staszowski” fired a 1 under 70 to earn his second straight title. After a number of birdie tries on the front nine missed Staszowski found the touch on the second nine as his, “cash-in club began to chirp.” With a crowd of 1,500 spectators following the action, Staszowski converted three birdies on the back nine to pull away as he secured his second straight Connecticut Open title.
Amateur Don Hoenig won the first of his two consecutive Connecticut Open titles at New Haven CC. Hoenig, a wool processing plant owner, became the fifth amateur to win the title. The 1981 Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame inductee posted rounds of 68-74 to finish two shots ahead of the field.
The 27-year-old “slammer” Mike Ballo, Sr. won his first career tournament at New Haven CC thanks in large part to a “talented putting touch.” A recent Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame inductee, Ballo, Sr., combined rounds of 71-66-71 to earn a five-stroke victory and his first of two Connecticut Open titles.
Two-time Connecticut Open winner Ken Green was playing on the PGA Tour in 1985. However, when he didn’t qualify for that week’s PGA Championship in Colorado he decided to play in the Connecticut Open for the first time since 1976 when he was 18-years-old. Green began the 36-hole final day with a “sleepy” 72 before pulling away from the field to finish 4 under and as the winner by seven shots.
“I would have felt awful if I didn’t win,” the Connecticut Golf Hall of Famer told the Hartford Courant. “I was definitely more nervous here than I am playing on the tour because I was supposed to win.”
Remarkably the next week Green returned to the PGA Tour and promptly won the Buick Open for his first career victory.
Two years earlier at the Country Club of Fairfield Jim St. Pierre let a chance at winning the Connecticut Open slip through his grasp. He nearly did the same thing at New Haven CC. St. Pierre carried a three-shot lead into the final but he was tracked down by Frank Bensel sending play to extra holes. St. Pierre and Bensel needed seven extra holes but ultimately St. Pierre was able to prevail.
John VanDerLaan set the 54 hole scoring record on his way to a two shot victory. VanDerLaan finished 16 under needing only 194 strokes to make his way around the Willie Park, Jr. design. Now a member of the Korn Ferry Tour VanDerLaan posted rounds of 66-62-66. In his stellar 8 under second round VanDerLaan recorded six birdies and an eagle. During the second round, he played Nos. 7-10 in 5 under.
Note: Information and quotes courtesy of the Hartford Courant archives.
Hero Image left to right: John VanDerLaan, Don Hoenig, and Harry Cooper
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Connecticut State Golf Association 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.