(November 3, 2022) – One of the longest days on the Connecticut State Golf Association calendar is the Four-Ball Championship held at Wallingford Country Club. Tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. and stretch until nearly 3 p.m. Among the first players out was longtime Wallingford CC member Ed Day. For most the highlight of an event is playing golf, for Day the highlight seems to be holding court as the groups behind him come off the course and report their scores.
His playing partner for the tournament long gone, Day will stand on the porch outside the pro shop for hours swapping stories and sharing a laugh with the players as they come off the course. This is a scene that is repeated each year at the Four-Ball Championship and the Russell C. Palmer Cup qualifier that has been held at the club for nearly 20 years. It is a scene that epitomizes Wallingford Country Club the 2022 Walter ‘Bud’ Smith Distinguished Club Award winner.
“The personality of the club is that it is a friendly club,” said 21-year head professional Stephen Birkmeyer. “It is a really welcoming place to play. If you don’t have a game it is easy to find somebody to play with. You will get invited to play.”
Always in pristine condition, Wallingford CC opened in 1898 and is one of the oldest courses in the state. From the opening tee shot that looks towards the mountains in the distance players are taken on a classic New England golf journey that meanders through tree lined fairways and past stone walls.
“The course is always in tremendous shape,” Birkmeyer said. “The greens are always fast. We try to keep our rough at a challenging height. The front nine is difficult because it is long and it plays long because it is a little bit soft. The back nine is challenging because it has some doglegs that require players to hit some different shots. It is a good test of golf.”
Dating back to when Wallingford CC co-hosted the 1967 Connecticut Senior Amateur the club has regularly welcomed the CSGA and the best amateur players in the state. Over the years numerous championships have been hosted at Wallingford CC including the Connecticut Mid-Amateur, the Connecticut Women’s Amateur, and in 1998 to celebrate the course’s 100th anniversary the Connecticut Amateur which was won by future PGA Tour winner J.J. Henry.
“Winning this award is important because we feel like we do as much as we can for amateur golf. We try to host as many events as we can for the state and we try to encourage our players to play in state events and we have quite a few that do,” Birkmeyer said.
In addition, to providing a stiff test of golf to the state’s best players the club has also produced a number of talented players that perform well at the state and national levels.
“Playing at Wallingford CC has helped form me into the collegiate caliber player that I would eventually become and hopefully, it helps shape a successful professional career for me in the future,” said Chris Fosdick the 2020 and 2021 Connecticut Amateur winner and Wallingford CC member, “When someone asks me where I play out of and I respond with ‘Wallingford CC’ I’m proud because Wallingford CC not only helped turn me into the player that I am today, but it has also helped form relationships that I’ll have for a lifetime with people that keep me motivated and people who have helped my golf game over the years.”
The success of Wallingford CC players at the state and national levels is a source of pride for the membership. It is common to find members following the results of CSGA events throughout the summer and encouraging or congratulating those who have competed when they see them at the club.
However, the sign of a good course is one that is welcoming and fun for everyone who steps onto the first tee. The goal of Wallingford CC is to create playing opportunities for everyone from families with young children to young professionals to seniors.
“Here at Wallingford we try to engage the players as much as we can,” Birkmeyer said. “We know that normally helps with retention. So, if players get involved in group play and play in tournaments at the club they usually remain a member of the club for years.”
As the Connecticut Four-Ball Championship winds down on picture-perfect August evening groups of members that followed the competition to the tee begin to make their way off the course following a quick trip around the front nine. One member stops by the scoring area to inquire about the results. As he idly chats he mentions how much he has loved the club since recently joining.
The feeling of belonging whether you are a new member, a long-time member, or a tournament player persists throughout Wallingford Country Club. It is a feeling that brings golfers back to the club time and time again.
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.