Several players moved into position Monday to check off a major golf bucket-list item.
Adam D’Amario birdied five of the last six holes on the front nine and added one more on the back to negate a closing bogey in shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the first round of the Connecticut Section PGA Spring Stroke Play Championship at Hop Meadow Country Club in Simsbury.
D’Amario, the assistant pro at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington, had a one-stroke lead over Corey Harris (Washington Club) in the Section qualifier for the $7 million Travelers Championship on June 21-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Harris also did most of his damage on the final nine, making four birdies in five holes, and had a birdie and bogey on the back side.
Geno Giancola (Timberlin GC-Berlin) is third at 70, two ahead of host pro Joe Cordani and Mike Martin (Clubs To Go). Jantzen Vargas (Lake of Isles CC-North Stonington), Zac Stennett (Tallwood CC-Hebron) and Milton Torres (CC of Wilbraham, Mass.) are tied for sixth at 73. Martin is the only player in the top eight to compete in the PGA Tour’s annual stop in Connecticut.
Billy Downes (GreatHorse GC-Hampden, Mass.), who earned a second Travelers Championship appearance in a playoff last year, withdrew with a back injury sustained while hitting balls on the range before his scheduled round.
The final round tomorrow (Tuesday) will determine who gets to compete against a loaded Travelers Championship 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 Tour victory in the 2005 Buick Championship in Cromwell and is the only 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 TravelersChampionship.com.
FRETTY LEADS PALMER CUP
Jackson Fretty birdied two of the last five holes to shoot a 3-under 68 and take the first-round lead in the Connecticut State Golf Association Russell C. Palmer Cup at the Country Club of Farmington.
Fretty (Greenwich CC) is one stroke ahead of Andrew Sciarretta (Brooklawn CC-Fairfield), Nicholas Piersall (TPC River Highlands) Seth Jainchill (Keney GC-Hartford) and Rasmey Kong (Wallingford CC).
The low 41 (39 plus ties) among 95 starters who shot 75 or lower advanced to the 36-hole windup Tuesday.
The Connecticut Stroke Play 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 Open (1963).
WHALEY NO. 1 TEACHER
Golf Digest named Suzy Whaley of Suzy Whaley Golf in Cromwell the No. 1 golf teacher in Connecticut. Whaley, who played on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993, made history in 2002 when she became the first female to win the Section PGA Championship and earn a spot in the 2003 Greater Hartford Open, now the Travelers Championship. It was the first time a woman qualified for a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias in 1945 and led to Annika Sorenstam accepting a sponsors’ exemption into the 2003 Colonial Invitational two months before Whaley played in the GHO. The only other woman to play in a PGA Tour event is Michelle Wie.
In the state teacher rankings, Whaley was followed by George Connor (Connor Golf), Paul Ramee (Bull’s Ridge GC-South Kent), Kammy Maxfeldt (Birchwood CC-Westport) and Ken Doyle (Hop Meadow CC-Simsbury), whose clients have included World Golf Hall of Famer Gary Player.
Greenwich native and former Patterson Club-Fairfield pro Brendan Walsh (The Country Club-Brookline) was No. 2 in Massachusetts, and former Birchwood pro Michael Breed (Golf Channel and Michael Breed Golf Academy at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in New York City) and Greenwich native and former Fairview CC-Greenwich pro Debbie Doniger (director of instruction at Glen Arbor GC-Bedford) were No. 1 and No. 5 in New York. Breed, who played in the 1994 GHO, was PGA National Teacher of the Year in 2012, and Doniger was among those named the Most Beautiful Women in Golf by Golf Magazine.
THREE FROM TFTCT RECOGNIZED
Ted May, whose father Ed helped start the Insurance City Open in 1952, was honored with The First Tee’s Jack Stephens Leadership Award during the organization’s celebration of its 20th anniversary at the Biennial Network Meeting in Orlando, Fla. The award recognizes an individual such as a past or present board member, donor or community advocate for their service, leadership and commitment to The First Tee’s mission. May, chairman of the 1983 GHO and an immediate past president of The First Tee of Connecticut’s board of directors, has been a cornerstone of the state branch since it began in 1999.
Meghan Mazumdar, 15, of South Windsor earned national recognition on and off the course. Mazumdar, who won a spot with McIlroy in the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am, was selected from a pool of national candidates to attend TFT Outstanding Participant & Leadership Summit in Orlando. The ninth grader at South Windsor High School was one of only 28 participants chosen based on academic achievement, community service, chapter involvement, leadership, essay responses and letters of recommendation. She also was one of two recipients of TFT’s Outstanding Participant Award and received a $20,000 scholarship from among eight finalists. She spoke to more than 1,000 people after former President George W. Bush, the organization’s honorary chair.
Meghan has been active with TFTCT since the fall of 2009. She participated in a panel of discussion entitled “Empowering Women Through Golf” and continues to serve as an eLeader with the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf program. In 2016, she won the Wells Fargo Succeeding Together essay contest and was invited to appear on NBC’s “Today” to share her experiences. She also participates in various activities through EXCEL (Talent and Gifted Program), including mock trial competitions and filmmaking.
Meanwhile, Dave Polk received TFTCT’s Chairman’s Award, which recognizes executive directors who demonstrate outstanding achievements in leadership and service to the chapter and TFT in organization development and the delivery of participant benefits. Polk retired as TFTCT executive director in August after 71/2 years and was succeeded by Mark Moriarty, who had been program director for six years and is now overseeing the organization serving more than 71,000 young people.