HAMDEN, Conn. – As would be expected, the Connecticut Section PGA’s leading players had regularly got the best of their Connecticut State Golf Association counterparts in the Julius Boros Challenge Cup Matches.
The club pros from most of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts had won six consecutive matches at New Haven Country Club before the amateurs finally ended their slump last year.
The CSGA standouts validated that win when they repeated in the Nassau-style competition for the first time since 2011 with a resounding 46.5-25.5 victory on Thursday.
The amateurs prevailed on the front nine, back nine and overall matches in both team and individual matches. They won the best-ball matches 17-7 and the individual matches 29.5-18.5, but the pros still have a sizable 34-14 lead in the series.
“It feels great, for sure, but it was closer than it seemed, even after the front nine,” CSGA captain Roger Everin said. “The key was our guys stuck to it and really played well on the back nine, so I feel very fortunate to be on the winning end again.”
PGA captain Ralph Salito was gracious and philosophical. “All credit to the amateurs,” he said. “They must have played very well because our guys played well. And these guys are some of the best players not only in the Section, but in the country. Most of all, this is a great event. We’re all proud to be here.”
The final score was decisive, but it was close at the turn as the CSGA led 10-6 in the individual matches but only 4.5-3.5 in the team matches. But in the end, matches were decided on the back nine with a few sweeps. The competition is a Four-Ball, with two-man teams competing for three points (front, back and 18), while individuals simultaneously play a three-point competition against a member of the other team.
Among those claiming all three points in their team match were Glen Boggini (Manchester CC) and Patrick Griffin (Blue Fox Run GC-Avon) against New Haven CC pro William Wallis and former New Haven assistant Billy Street, with Griffin making four consecutive birdies and shooting 4-under-par 30 on the front nine. Also sweeping were Dan Murphy (H. Smith Richardson GC-Fairfield) and Jamie Sheltman (Alling Memorial GC-New Haven), who bested Rick Fleury (Ledges CC-South Hadley, Mass.) and James Giampaolo (Shuttle Meadow CC-Kensington). For the PGA, Kyle Bilodeau (GC of Avon) and 2018 Player of the Year Chris Tallman (Cold Spring CC-Belchertown, Mass.) swept their match against Ben Day (CC of Waterbury) and Shep Stevens (New Haven CC).
In the individual matches, Murphy, 2017 CSGA Amateur champion Richard Dowling (Golf Performance Center-Ridgefield) and former professional Nick Cook (Tashua Knolls GC-Trumbull) took all three points for the CSGA. On the PGA side, Bilodeau and Kevin Mahaffey (Pequabuck GC-Bristol) swept their matches.
The CSGA won despite the absence of Brian Ahern, the 2018 Palmer Cup champion, who was out because of back surgery, and Rob Neaton, a CSGA Amateur Championship semifinalist, sidelined by an illness. And 2018 Player of the Year Ben Conroy, a star in last year’s Challenge Cup, and 2017 Mid-Amateur champion Mike Kennedy, both members of New Haven CC, had business conflicts and couldn’t play.
Last year’s Challenge Cup victory was the start of an unprecedented sweep in team competition for Connecticut amateurs. In August, the state’s junior team dominated the New England Junior Invitational Championship, and in October, the CSGA team won by a point over Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the Tri-State Matches.
The Challenge Cup Matches were first played at Tumble Brook CC in Bloomfield, but this was the 44th time that they were held at New Haven CC. The event was created in honor of Boros, arguably Connecticut’s greatest golfer who won the U.S. Open twice and the PGA Championship. He’s still the oldest to win a major, capturing the 1968 PGA Championship at 48 years, four months and 18 days, holding off Arnold Palmer to deny The King the only major that he never won. Boros bested the record previously held by Jerry Barber, who won the 1961 PGA Championship at 45 years, three months and six days. Half of Boros’ 18 PGA Tour wins came after turning 40, including, at age 43, the 1963 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., where he was the oldest at the time to win the national championship. When he was 53, he shared the lead in the 1973 U.S. Open with 10 holes to play before finishing seventh.
Ironically, the major where Boros set this record is perhaps better known for Palmer’s failure to win. But Palmer played a heroic approach shot out of the woods on the final hole, hitting 2-iron uphill and finding the green to keep his hopes alive. The site of that 2-iron shot was marked by a historic marker on the golf course that no longer exists, Pecan Valley Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas. But, all these years later, Boros’ record as the oldest major winner endures, with Old Tom Morris at No. 2 at 46 years and 99 days.
ROB LABRITZ MAKES PGA CUT
Central Connecticut State University grad Rob Labritz was one of three club professionals among 20 starters to make the cut in the PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. Labritz, the director of golf at Glen Arbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., a 90-minute drive from Bethpage Black, shot a 1-under 69 on Friday for a 36-hole total of 4-over 144, the cut line for the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.
Labritz, the first player to hit off the first tee at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, is playing in his fifth PGA Championship and also made the cut in 2010, when he was the only club pro to play the final 36 holes and tied for 68th at the Straits Course of the Whistling Straits complex in Haven, Wisc. But this time Labritz was followed by about 100 members who wore “Rob’s Mob” T-shirts. He won the New York State Open on the Bethpage Black Course in 2008, 2011 and 2016 and once shot 65 in his previous 69 rounds there. He qualified for this year’s PGA Championship by finishing eighth in the PGA Professional Championship. The only other club pros to make the cut were Martin Jertson (139) and Ryan Vermeer (144), the 2018 PGA Professional Championship winner.
Labritz, the father of two who turns 48 on May 31, is 16 strokes behind defending champion Brooks Koepka, who shot 65 for 128, the low 36-hole total in major championship history. Koepka, who is committed to the Travelers Championship a week after shooting for a third consecutive U.S. Open title at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, is seven strokes ahead of runners-up Adam Scott (64) and 2017 Travelers Championship winner Jordan Spieth (66).
Reigning Travelers Championship titlist Bubba Watson shot 69, but an opening 76 led to him missing the cut by a shot. Others who narrowly failed to qualify for the weekend were Masters champion Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and major winners Martin Kaymer, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia. Other notables who won’t be around for the final 36 holes are past Travelers champions Marc Leishman (2012) and Russell Knox (2016), Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and former PGA champions Padraig Harrington, Y.E. Yang, Shaun Micheel, Jason Dufner and John Daly, who was allowed to ride in a cart because of an ailing knee.
Among the club pros to fail to advance was Cape Cod native, former PGA Tour player and 2012 Connecticut Open winner Jason Caron, who opened with 70 but shot 79 Friday. Last week, Caron won the two-day Metropolitan (N.Y.)Section Head Professional Championship and then was the medalist in U.S. Open Local Qualifying with a 6-under 64 at Rockaway Hunting Club, putting him 36 holes from a spot at Pebble Beach. Caron is the head pro at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, N.Y., whose wife, Liz, is an assistant at the club. The former Liz Janangelo won a record five consecutive Connecticut State Women’s Amateurs and the Connecticut Women’s Open four times and was a member of the 2004 victorious U.S. Curtis Cup team that also included Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer and Brittany Lang. Liz played in 11 majors before retiring from the LPGA Tour.
GOVENOR NED LAMONT NAMED HONORARY CHAIRMAN
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont was named Travelers Championship honorary chairman. “When (tournament director) Nathan (Grube) and I went to meet with him, we spent about a half hour with him, and he was so excited,” Travelers executive vice president and chief administrative officer Andy Bessette said. “He had ideas on who to sell and how to sell, and how to participate and he said, ‘What can I do to help you?’ This just reflects that this is Connecticut’s event. We have over 4,000 volunteers every year that make this happen.” … There will be two major state tournaments on Monday and Tuesday. Forty-five pros will compete in the Connecticut Section PGA Spring Stroke Play Championship at GreenHorse CC in Hampden, Mass., where the Class A winner qualifies for the Travelers Championship. Corey Harris is not defending. Meanwhile, 84 players will start in the CSGA Palmer Cup at the Country Club of Waterbury. Brian Ahern of Wampanoag CC in West Hartford will not defend because of an injury. … Their eighth birdie of the day on the difficult 18th hole gave Brian Hussey and Matthew Rosengrant a bogey-free 8-under 64 and a one-stroke victory in the Connecticut Section PGA Pro-Assistant Pro Championship at Ellington Ridge CC. The duo from Rock Ridge CC in Newtown edged Tim Gavronski and James Giampaolo of Shuttle Meadow CC in Kensington. …Richard Dowling made a 5-foot par putt on the fifth playoff to give him and Nick Taylor a second consecutive victory in the CSGA Two-Man Championship at the Black Hall Club in Old Lyme. Dowling, the 2017 CSGA Amateur champion, and Taylor, who play out of the Golf Performance Center, combined to shoot a 2-under 140 and then beat David Giuletti (GC of Avon) and Steve Gettings (Orange Hills CC), who also finished second last year. Eric Bleile (Sterling Farms CC-Stamford) and David Marseglia (Framingham, Mass., CC) also shot 140 but were eliminated on the first playoff hole. … Fairview Farm Golf Course in Harwinton will receive the Section’s 2019 Walter Lowell Public Golf Course Distinguished Service Award at the Walter Lowell PGA Tournament on Thursday at Twin Hills CC in East Longmeadow, Mass. Since 2001, the award has honored a public golf course in the Section in recognition of their dedication to the promotion of the game of golf. The award was inaugurated in honor of Canton Golf Course owned by Lowell for the standards set towards a public course’s responsibility to its community to provide playing opportunities for all those who want to play and learn the game.
CWGA CELEBRATING 100th ANNIVERSARY
The Connecticut Women’s Golf Association is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and it will be commemorated with a special day June 25 at New Haven CC. The CWGA Championship is June 4, 5 and 7 at Hartford GC in West Hartford, and other major events include the New England Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championship is at GreatHorse CC on July 8-10, the Connecticut State Women’s Amateur Championship at Oronoque Village CC in Stratford on July 24-25 and the Endicott Cup between the top players from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island at Madison CC on Oct. 1-3. … The Southern New England Women’s Golf Association Championship is July 15-16 at D.F. Wheeler GC in Fairfield. … Keney Park GC in Hartford will host the Boys and Girls Junior PGA Championships. The girls’ tournament is July 9-12 and the boys event is July 30-Aug. 2. Each will feature 144 players in a four-round, stroke-play format, with past champions including Tiger Woods and Lexi Thompson.
ANNIVERSARY FOR FIRST TEE OF CONNECTICUT
When The First Tee of Hartford began in 1999, it had junior golf clinics for fewer than 100 youngsters. The 20th anniversary of what is now The First Tee of Connecticut will feature youth development programs for nearly 70,000 kids at locations across the state. To celebrate its two decades of serving youth throughout Connecticut, The First Tee of Connecticut’s 20th Anniversary Celebration will be at Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich on July 22. There will be other events, and more information can be obtained from director of development Christy Miller at 860-882-1660 or email@example.com.
The organization is also going to conduct spring group lessons, summer camps and team programs a Parent-Child tournament Sept. 8 at Fairchild Wheeler GC in Fairfield, free Junior League teams at Keney Park GC and Goodwin Park GC in Hartford thanks to the support of PGA Tour Properties and the TPC Network, qualifying for the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, free playing time on the four-hole Karl Krapek Family Learning Links in Cromwell on Sunday mornings, volunteer opportunities during the Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am, donation opportunities through Birdies For Charity and a playing opportunity through the Eversource PGA Tour Player Experience for Junior Golfers. If interested in the PGA Junior League, contact TFTCT executive director Mark Moriarty at 860-882-1660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.