SIMSBURY – Corey Harris and Adam D’Amario shared a cart in a steady drizzle that blanketed the final round of the Connecticut Section PGA Spring Stroke Play Championship at Hop Meadow Country on Tuesday and ended up part of history.
For the first time in the nine years of the tournament, the winner and Travelers Championship qualifier were different players.
Harris, the fifth-year pro at the Washington Club who played in 37 countries worldwide on several tours, made eagle 3 on the fifth hole to spark a 2-under-par 70 for a 36-hole total of 6-under 140 and a four-stroke victory over Geno Giancola.
D’Amario, the first-round leader and assistant pro at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington, struggled much of Tuesday but still was the day’s other big winner. Despite bogeying two of the last three holes to close with 77 for 144, D’Amario parred the second playoff – the 16th that he bogeyed in regulation – to beat Jantzen Vargas and earn his first berth in the Travelers Championship on June 21-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
“I limped in,” D’Amario said with a smile.
But it sure beat losing a playoff to Ian Marshall in 2011, the same year that D’Amario won the Section Professional Championship to qualify for the national event.
“I had no idea where I stood, but after I bogeyed the 16th hole, I figured I had to try to make something happen and got too aggressive,” D’Amario said.
D’Amario hit his second shot into a hazard and made bogey 6 at No. 17, but a closing par 5 got him into a tie for third overall with Vargas (Lake of Isles CC-North Stonington), who birdied the last two holes for 71.
“I figured I was just going to use the round for practice after my first lesson in 10 years last week,” Vargas said. “I just showed up to practice and got lucky because Adam had a kind of a tough day. I just played golf, working on my swing, and got into playoff. Since I grew up in Killingly, I’d really like to play in the Travelers, but the right guy won. I’ll get there some day.”
Making his PGA Tour debut will add to an already hectic schedule for D’Amario, “the golf guy” at Indian Hill who mostly handles memberships, marketing and tournament operations. His wife is scheduled to have a baby the first week of August, and the couple had scheduled a “babymoon” on June 10 in Chatham, Mass. His wife’s baby shower is June 23, the same day as the third round of the Travelers Championship.
But that schedule pales in comparison to what Harris has endured for much of the past two decades. Harris and Giancola (Timberlin GC-Berlin), the 24-year-old son of frequent Section winner and Player of the Year Kevin Giancola who has competed in three Travelers Championships, weren’t eligible for the biggest sporting event in Connecticut because they are Associate members of the PGA of America.
This was Harris’ first individual Section tournament at Washington Club, which has hosted PGA Tour players Ken Green, Mark Calcavecchia and George Burns. Before returning to Connecticut, Harris played the South American Tour in 1998-2001 and Asian Tour in 2004-2012.
Harris, 43, who previously win was the 2005 Asian Tour qualifying school, said Thailand was the most interesting country that he has played in, and Karachi, Pakistan, was the most memorable city.
“We took an armored caravan to the course, which was on an old Army base,” Harris said.
Harris also spent time playing European PGA Tour events and fondly remembers a third-round pairing in Malaysia with Colin Montgomerie and Retief Goosen.
But after traveling the world for too many years to remember, Harris got married in 2012 and has two children. After the five years at the Washington Club, Harris decided it was time to get really competitive again.
“I wanted to play in the Section because the club had been so good to me and made it such a good job,” Harris said.
Well, Harris is batting 1.000 in the Connecticut Section PGA after starting the final round one stroke behind D’Amario. Harris took the lead when D’Amario made double-bogey 6 at the first hole and never relinquished the advantage after the eagle at No. 5.
“I wasn’t going for the Travelers spot, so I knew (D’Amario and Vargas) would probably be a little nervous,” said Harris, who earned $1750. “I think I actually hit the ball better today, but I made a few more putts yesterday.”
Host pro Joe Cordani got within a shot of the playoff for the Travelers spot, but a bogey 6 at the 18th hole ended those chances as he closed with 74 to finish fifth at 146.
When D’Amario tees it up at TPC River Highlands in five weeks, he will be part of a loaded field that already includes the past three major championship winners: defending Travelers champion Jordan Spieth (British Open), Justin Thomas (PGA Championship), who became No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings two weeks ago, and Patrick Reed (Masters). Spieth won the Travelers last year with an historic 61-foot bunker shot on the first playoff hole to beat close friend Daniel Berger. It’s the only time on the PGA Tour that a player prevailed via a bunker shot in a playoff. The only players to win on the last hole of regulation are Bob Tway (1986 PGA Championship) and 1994 Travelers winner David Frost (1990 USF&G Classic), with the victim both times being World Golf Hall of Fame member and 1995 Travelers champion Greg Norman.
Other marquee names in the Travelers field include former No. 1s Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, two-time Travelers winner Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, major championship winners Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk, who shot a PGA Tour record 58 in the final round in 2016, Charley Hoffman, Bryson DeChambeau and Fairfield native J.J. Henry, who notched his first of three PGA Tour victories in the 2005 Buick Championship in Cromwell and is the only player from Connecticut to win the tournament.
Youngsters 15 and under accompanied by a paying adult are admitted free each day of the tournament. For more information on the biggest sporting event in Connecticut, visit www.travelerschampionship.com.
AHERN WINS PALMER CUP
Brian Ahern shot 4-under 138 in the 36-hole tournament windup played in cold, wet conditions for a three-round total of 5-under 208 and a one-stroke victory over Andrew Sciarretta and Rasmey Kong in the Connecticut State Golf Association Russell C. Palmer Cup at the Country Club of Farmington.
Ahern (Wampanoag CC-West Hartford) was one of only four players to finish under par as he won his first CSGA title since the 2012 Mid-Amateur. Ahern, 42, joined Bill Hadden as the only players to capture the CSGA Amateur (1999), Mid-Amateur (2010, 2012) and the Palmer Cup, the state’s premier stroke-play competition.
“I drove it well and I putted really, really well,” Ahern said. “It’s been a while since I did that. It feels good to play this well again.”
Ahern prevailed despite making four bogeys in the last eight holes after a birdie 4 at No. 10 got to 9 under.
Kong and Sciarretta each failed to convert birdie tries on the final hole to tie. Kong (Wallingford CC) left a 20-foot putt an inch short, while Sciarretta’s 60-yard chip narrowly missed. Kong and Sciaretta (Brooklawn CC-Fairfield) each shot 140 on Tuesday.
Brian Conroy (New Haven CC, 141) was the only other player to finish under par at 212, two better than Tim Kane (New Haven CC, 142). Jackson Fretty, 17, who led after the first round, closed with 76-75 to finish in a tie for 12th at 219.
The championship is named for the former CSGA executive director and Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame inductee who died in 2007. Palmer was a member of the famed Royal & Ancient Golf Club in Scotland and an active member in the USGA, and his numerous accomplishments included establishing the use of GHIN through CSGA member clubs and initiating the purchase of Connecticut Golf House that served as home of the CSGA and Section PGA for 25 years.
The tournament was played at CC of Farmington because its perennial host, the Country Club of Waterbury, is hosting the CSGA Amateur Championship on June 4-8. Farmington is one of the oldest clubs in the United States and a founding member of the CSGA. The current course was designed in 1924 by renowned architect Devereux Emmet and previously hosted four major CSGA events, the Amateur (1996, 2002), Senior Amateur (1961) and Connecticut Open (1963).
ENDING ON A HIGH
Three months after learning this would be the final season for the Central Connecticut State University men’s and women’s golf teams due to budget cuts, the men won the Northeast Conference Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla., by 12 strokes to earn their first NCAA berth in 13 years.
Senior Anthony Sebastianelli led the way for the Blue Devils when he tied for first at even-par 216 and then lost a playoff to Sacred Heart’s Saptak Talwar. Joe Tucker and Nick Piersall each shot 223, Arthur Ouimet had 227 and Brandon Raine shot 241 as the program’s 52-year run ended.
“I’ve tried to instill in them that this is probably going to be the best thing ever to happen because why would you want to be at a place that doesn’t want you?” said coach Kyle Gallo, who is working at his alma mater after playing on the Buy.com Tour and winning a record-tying four Connecticut Open titles. “All they did was go out and win a conference championship. All they did was be good students. All they did was be good kids and be upstanding members of the community. It’s not their fault. It’s the inability of other individuals and grownups, not getting their fiscal business in order and decisions that I think were short-sighted and practically illogical.”
… University of Connecticut teammates Jimmy Hervol and Tim Umphrey captured the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship at The Captains GC in Brewster, Mass. Hervol (Hopkinton CC) and Umphrey (Tatnuck CC-Worcester) won a three-hole playoff with two-time Massachuetts Amateur champion Mike Calef (Pine Oaks GC-South Easton) and Kevin Silva (Black Nine Club-Lakeville). Hervol clinched the win with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 1 in dense fog and dwindling daylight. The two teams had finished 36 holes at 15-under 129.
… Brittany Grimm was named the first coach of the Trinity College women’s golf program, which begins play in the fall. Grimm, who was in her third season as an assistant softball coach at Trinity, is a 2012 graduate of Brandeis University, where she starred on the softball team. She also has a master’s degree from Trinity in American Studies and was an assistant softball coach for one year and the interim head coach at her alma mater in 2014-15. The Bantams will be the 14th Division III women’s golf program in New England and first Division III school in Connecticut to sponsor the sport.