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Women’s Amateur Heads to Race Brook CC for First Time

(July 14, 2021) – Race Brook Country Club in Orange was the longtime home course of one of the most decorated women players that Connecticut has ever produced. Pat O’Sullivan Lucey was a member of the club for better than 70 years – during that time span she dominated women’s golf locally, regionally, and nationally. In 1951 she won the Titleholders Championship and is still one of just five amateurs to win an LPGA Tour event. Later in her career the Connecticut Golf Hall of Famer won the first three Connecticut Women’s Amateurs contested capturing the title in 1966, 1967, and again in 1968.

However, despite the strong ties to the women’s game in Connecticut Race Brook CC has never hosted a Connecticut Women’s Amateur. That will all change this year on July 20-21st when the 56th edition of the event is held at the club. 

“I think it is great [that we are hosting the Connecticut Women’s Amateur this year],” Race Brook CC head professional Paul Barnsley said. “It has been a while since we had a lady’s event. We used to have a lady’s invitational here. The club has a lot of history with women events, it is great for women’s golf, it is great for junior girls, it is good for the club and good for the state in general.”

Race Brook CC was opened in 1912 and it is one of the oldest private clubs in the state. The original 18 hole layout opened in 1913 as a Robert D. Pryde design. In the years after the course expanded to 27 holes with the inner 9 hole loop named the O’Sullivan in honor of O’Sullivan Lucey. 

Throughout the club’s history a number of regional and state championships have been held at the course including the 2004 New England Amateur, 2005 Connecticut PGA Championship, the New England England Senior Amateur twice, and in 2012 the Connecticut Amateur.

“The members are very excited to host the event,” Barnsley said of the club welcoming another CSGA event. “This event means a lot to the club. It is a 100-year-old plus club so to host an event like this it just adds to the history of the club.”

Playing at about 5,800 yards for the championship the par-71 layout will be a challenging test for the field with the stiffest challenge for players coming around the fast and firm greens. “The greens are generally firm so I think even though on the card the course might be a little short it doesn’t play that way,” Barnsley said. “Second shots into the green are definitely a premium so hitting into the green and where you leave your tee shot definitely gives you a better angle for your approach shot.”

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It will be crucial for the field to play the par-3s and par-5s well throughout the tournament. On the par-3s it is all about penciling in a par on the scorecard while the par-5s offer players a good chance at recording a birdie or better. 

“If you can get through the front nine with a good score you are off to a good start. Then it is just a matter of holding on as you play your way home. The course closes with a fairly strong stretch where you have 15-18 and it is a good finishing stretch,” Barnsley said when asked about where the players should try to do most of their scoring.

One player who is always looking for a chance to go low is defending champion Sophia Sarrazin. Last year Sarrazin (The Patterson Club) pulled away on the final day at Fairview Farms Golf Course to earn the title by four shots over Jen Holland (Lyman Orchards GC). Sarrazin, then 15-years-old, built a sizeable advantage in the final round thanks to three birdies in her first six holes to take control. 

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“Last year, I remember the feeling of just wanting to shoot as low as I could and trying to further my lead throughout the final round,” Sarrazin said of her win last year. “I was confident as I played and just had fun with my playing partners which helped me stay calm. I was just so happy walking up to my last putt.”

Since last year Sarrazin has continued to work on her game and feels that she has greatly improved around the greens something that will help her save strokes around the difficult green complexes at Race Brook CC. 

However, even with an improved game and the confidence gained from sharing low amateur honors at the Connecticut Women’s Open last month Sarrazin is entering her title defense with few expectations. “I have no expectations. I want to go into it with the same aggressive mindset on the course as last year and approach every shot with confidence and hopefully shoot low. There is always a strong field and I just want to play the best I possibly can and I am so beyond excited to compete.”

Play at the 56th Connecticut Women’s Amateur will begin on Tuesday and in addition to the Championship Division there will be a Junior Division (18 and under), Mid-Amateur Division (19-49), Senior Division (50-59), and a Super Senior Division (60+). A champion will be determined over the course of two rounds of stroke play. There will be no cut following the completion of the first round.

Field Notes:

Past Champions (3) – Sophia Sarrazin (2020), Kyra Cox  (2018), Jen Holland (2008) 

Youngest Players (14-years-old) – Samantha Dunn and Giada Izzo

Players to Watch:

Kyra Cox (EClub of Connecticut): The 2018 champion didn’t play in the Connecticut Women’s Amateur last year but this year she will return looking for title number two. The rising senior at Furman competed in the Connecticut Women’s Open in June finishing T5.

Nicole Elliott (Pequabuck Golf Club): Last week Elliott finished second at the SNEWGA Championship and last year she won the CSGA Mixed Team Championship.

Liz Garfield (EClub of Connecticut): A rising sophomore at Holy Cross last year Garfield finished in a tie for fifth at the Women’s Amateur. 

Mia Grzywinski (Country Club of Farmington): It has been a phenomenal season so far for Grzywinski winning the Hartford Women’s Open and finishing second at the New England Women’s Amateur. A member of the Quinnipiac golf team, Grzywinski led heading into the final round of the Connecticut Women’s Amateur last year. 

Jen Holland (Lyman Orchards Golf Club): The 2008 champion finished second last year on her way to winning the Liz Janangelo Caron Women’s Player of the Year for a fourth consecutive year. 

Tracy Lee (EClub of Connecticut): Lee is a rising senior at the University of Wisconsin. She recently qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur to be contested next month at Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York next month.

Caroline Petchark (Great Neck Country Club): Last year Petchark, a rising sophomore at Eckerd College in Florida recorded a T5 showing. 

Catarina Petrovic (EClub of Connecticut): The 15-year-old finished second at the end of June at the Connecticut Junior PGA Championship. In 2020 she played in eight PGA Connecticut Section Junior Tour events earning six top-10 showings. 

Sophia Sarrazin (Patterson Club): The defending champion will return seeking to become the first repeat champion since Kelly Whaley in 2013 and 2014.

Gia Watkins (Brooklawn Country Club): Last year the 64-year-old made a run at the title sharing third place. 

 About the Connecticut State Golf Association

The Connecticut Women’s 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.