Darien, Connecticut (July 27, 2021) – Through two rounds home course advantage has paid big dividends for Ben Carpenter. The Country Club of Darien member shot a sterling 4-under 67 on Tuesday to move to 9-under and the lead with one round remaining at the 87th Connecticut Open presented by The Reby Financial Advisory Teams of Wealth Enhancement Group.
“It is awesome,” Carpenter said of playing so well on his home course. “I was in a very similar position last year at the IKE. It is just great to have all the guys I play with for fun watching me, all the members. I am sure there is going to be a big crowd tomorrow. It is great to come out here and just show out.”
The rising sophomore on the Yale golf team got off to a sluggish start. Beginning his round off the 1st tee Carpenter was 1-over after seven holes before finally finding some life with consecutive birdies on Nos. 8 and 9. With a large crowd of members following and cheering his every shot Carpenter turned for the back nine tied with Peter Ballo, the overnight leader at 6-under.
Once on the second nine Carpenter continued to surge finding a birdie on the par-4 12th to take the outright lead and then extended his advantage with a birdie on the par-5 15th. On the par-3 16th with the pin tucked just above a steep ridge in the top left corner of the green Carpenter converted a crucial up and down for par to keep the momentum going.
After missing the green to the left of the pin and with very little green to work with Carpenter lofted a flop shot that landed softly and rolled out to three feet.
“Before playing I was practicing those shots on the putting green, just flopping them off the toe to take a little speed of them,” Carpenter said. “All I wanted to do on that flop shot was just carry the bottom of the slope.”
A par followed on the 17th sending Carpenter to the tee at 8-under-par for the tournament. His second shot into the 495 yard par-5 18th went left landing on the 15th hole tee box. Again facing a challenging up and down Carpenter, seeking to become the first amateur to win the Connecticut Open since Jeff Hedden in 2008, knocked his pitch shot to five feet setting up a closing birdie.
Carpenter will begin the final round two shots ahead of Ben James (Great River GC) and Silvermine GC assistant professional Peter Ballo who will both begin Wednesday’s final round 7-under.
James played his way into the picture with the round of the day, a 6-under 65. On Monday James was playing well until he double-bogeyed the par-4 7th hole, his 16th hole of the day to sign for a 1-under 70. However, on Tuesday there were no lingering thoughts of his late-round slip up from the day before.
Playing a few groups behind Carpenter, James was 1-under through his first 11 holes before kicking it into high gear down the stretch. Beginning with a birdie on the par-4 12th James birdied four holes in a row and then the closing hole to firmly insert himself into the race.
The key to James’ run was his wedge game, during his four straight birdie run he consistently knocked his approach shots to within 15-feet and then watched as the putts dropped. “Seeing the putts go in one after the other is nice,” James said with a smile.
When all was said and done James played the final seven holes in 5-under. “It would mean a lot [to win the Connecticut Open], said James. “It is one that I have always wanted. I was in the mix at Torrington CC [in 2019] and didn’t get to play last year but I want it pretty bad so I am going to come out hot.”
Speaking of coming out hot first-round leader Peter Ballo did just that knocking his approach shots on two of his first three holes to inches setting up easy birdies. However, it was his bogey on the par-3 11th hole that set the tone for the day. An up and down grind.
“It definitely was more of a roller coaster today,” Ballo said. “Yesterday was probably one of my first bogey-free rounds in a long time but luckily at the end of the day because I was making the birdies it wasn’t terrible as long as it evens out.”
Even-par for the day after nine holes he rolled in a long birdie on the par-4 1st hole and then added additional birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. In the end, Ballo birdied six holes and bogeyed five.
“It would mean a lot to win the Connecticut Open,” said Ballo when asked what a Connecticut Open title would mean. “It would be the third one in the family [after my dad won it 1969 and 1978] and the first child to do it. I am always thinking about it with our dad and how he has won them. But I am just going to come out and play a solid round of golf.”
A large group sits in a distant tie for fourth place at 2-under. The group includes Mike Ballo Jr. (Stamford, CT), Alex Beach (Stamford, CT), Cody Paladino (Wampanoag CC), Blake Morris (CC of Waterbury), and Casey Pyne (The Stanwich Club).
The final round of the 87th Connecticut Open will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The Connecticut Open 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.