HARTFORD, Conn. – It was a memorable Sunday for former University of Hartford teammates Jerry Kelly and Tim Petrovic in The Ally Challenge on the PGA Champions Tour.
Kelly shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 for a 72-hole total of 16-under 200 and a two-stroke victory over 2004 Buick Championship (now Travelers Championship) winner Woody Austin at Warwick Hills Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich. Austin’s first of four PGA Tour victories came in the 1995 Buick Open at Warwick Hills.
Kelly was dubbed a “Flintoid” by a friend during the week, and after he secured his win with a birdie on the 17th hole, ensuring $2 beers for spectators, Kelly said it was one of the highlights of his year.
“The people were fantastic out there,” said a smiling Kelly, who earned $300,000 from a $2 million purse and solidified second place in the Charles Schwab Cup standings. “We’re so happy to be back at this tournament. (Holes) eight and 17 are so fun to play in front of so many people. I just wanted to birdie for those guys so they can have a little more time out there.”
After a third-round 65, the 52-year-old Kelly began the day with a one-stroke lead over Schwab Cup leader Scott McCarron and Austin, who got even when he made birdie 2 at the third hole. But Austin bogeyed No. 5 and Kelly birdied the sixth and seventh holes to take the lead for good as he notched his second win of the year and fifth on the PGA Tour Champions. He also won the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii and Advil Western Open in 2002 and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2009 and finished second by a shot to Russell Knox in the 2016 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
Meanwhile, Petrovic, a Glastonbury native, bogeyed the first hole and then made six birdies in the final 10, including the 18th, in shooting 67 for 204 and a tie for third with Steve Flesch (66) and David Toms (68). It was Petrovic’s fourth Top-10 finish in 18 starts this year, with his previous best being a tie for second in the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship and a tie for third in the Senior Open presented by Rolex.
It was the 10th Top-7 finish in 19 starts for Kelly, who earlier won the American Family Insurance Championship in late June in his native Madison, Wisc., finished second in the Regions Tradition, tied for second in the U.S. Senior Open Championship and Mitsubisha Electric Classic, finished third in the Principal Charity Classic, tied for third in Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai and Boeing Classic, finished fifth in the KitchenAir Senior PGA and tied for seventh in the Insperity Invitational and Mastercard Japan Championship. Kelly is second on the money list with $1,861,882, trailing only McCarron ($2,350,000), who had an uncharacteristic closing 75 to fall into a tie for 15th.
“We’ve got to catch up to Scotty,” said Kelly, whose only bogey in the tournament came on the ninth hole Friday. “We’ve got to do something special. He’s been playing great, and he’s got a huge lead. All we can try to do is chase him down, try to win tournaments. We’re all trying to play the best we can every single week, so just do the same thing next week.”
Kelly graduated from U of H in 1989 with a degree in finance and insurance, turned pro in 1996, played on the 2003 U.S. Presidents Cup Team and has career earnings of more than $29 million.
Rhode Island native Billy Andrade shot 69 to tie for 46th at 215. Mark Brooks, winner of the 1988 Greater Hartford Open, shot 83 to finish 76th at 235.
Warwick Hills was the longtime home of the Buick Open and will host the Ally Challenge until 2025. The announcement of a five-year extension was made Saturday, but the 2020 tournament will be July 27-Aug. 2.
If Kelly returns next year to defend his title, he might have the crowd cheering on the honorary “Flintoid,” a reference to Grand Blanc being near Flint, Mich.
“What about ‘Flintstone?’ ” one writer asked.
“Sorry, I like ‘Flintoid,” Kelly said.
ALTOMARE WINS, U.S. LOSES IN SOLHEIM CUP
Brittany Altomare, a native of Worcester, Mass., scored an impressive 5-and-4 victory over Jodi Ewart Shadoff in a singles match in the Solheim Cup, but Europe put together a stirring late rally to reclaim the biggest competition in women’s golf from the United States at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland.
Altomare, one of six rookies on the U.S. team, lost the first hole and then won six over the next 13 holes to help give the Americans a two-point lead with three matches to go. Megan Khang, another of the American rookies and a native of Brockton, Mass., had earlier birdied the 18th hole to tie Charley Hull.
But Bronte Law, Anna Nordqvist and Suzann Pettersen won the final three matches, with Pettersen making a 7-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat Marina Alex 1 up and give Europe a 141/2-131/2 victory, their first since 2013. After the final stroke dropped, Pettersen, a somewhat controversial pick of Scottish captain Catriona Matthews after playing in only three LPGA Tour events following an 18-month maternity leave, was mobbed by her teammates, caddies and other team officials.
During a post-match press conference, the heart and soul of the European team for more than a decade announced she was retiring from competitive golf after notching 15 LPGA Tour and seven Ladies European Tour victories and playing on nine Solheim Cup teams, including four winners. She also was named to the 2017 team but couldn’t play because of an injury.
“It was a left-center putt, and it’s a dream come true to pull this off,” Pettersen said of her decisive stroke struck with baby boy Herman in the crowd. “Walking up to the green, I thought this is it for me and the Solheim Cup forever. I mean, can you ask for more? The last putt to win the Cup, when it’s that close? History was just made to win in front of the Scottish crowd (for the third time).
“I could never in a million miles dream for anything more. I never thought I was going to be here four months ago, so I’m completely done. I think this is a perfect closure, the end for my Solheim career and a nice end for my professional career. This is it. It doesn’t get any better.”
After 16 foursomes and four-ball matches Friday and Saturday, the teams were tied 8-8, but Europe forged ahead when Carlota Ciganda, Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier, who was 4-0 in the event, won three of the first four matches, with Nelly Korda scoring the lone U.S. victory. But wins for Altomare, Jessica Korda, Nelly’s sister, Angel Lin and Lizette Salas and Khang’s tie appeared to put the U.S. in excellent position to win a three consecutive Cup.
“I knew I was going to have to make a lot of birdies to beat (Ewart Shadoff), and that’s what I did,” Altomare said. “(The Solheim Cup) was more than what I thought it was going to be, just the team bonding and friendships that you build with these girls. And just being part of a team, it’s just been great.”
Khang said: “It’s been so much fun. You learn a lot about yourself and about how to play in the wind here. But overall, the crowd was great, the team was awesome and the atmosphere is so fun and so different from everyday golf that we play on tour.”
But the joy for Altomore, Khang and the rest of the American team went south as Europe improved to 6-10 in the biennial competition, which will be next played in 2021 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
WERENSKI TIES FOR THIRD
Richy Werenski, a native of Springfield, Mass., shot a 1-under 69 for a 14-under 266 and a tie for third with Brian Harman, Harris English and Nate Lashley in A Military Salute at the Greenbrier at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. A bogey at the 18th hole cost Werenski $300,000 as a par would have kept him in a tie for second with Tom Hoge, who had 65 for 265.
Joaquin Niemann pulled away to a six-stroke victory thanks to six birdies, including at the 16th, 17th and 18th holes, in a back-nine, 5-under 31 for 64. The 20-year-old became the first PGA Tour winner from Chile and the youngest international PGA Tour champion since 1923.
It was the third-best PGA Tour finish for Werenski, who grew up in South Hadley, Mass., playing The Orchards Golf Club. He graduated from Georgia Tech and won the 2012 Porter Cup before turning pro two years later. He won his first two pro events, the Cutter Creek Classic on the NGA Pro Golf Tour and the Vermont Open and added another NGA win in July 2014.
Werenski, 27, won the Golf Channel’s reality show “Big Break The Palm Beaches, Fla.,” in 2015, earning a spot in the Barbasol Championship, where he tied for 72nd in his PGA Tour debut. He earned his 2015 Web.com Tour card through qualifying school and picked up his first win in the 2016 BMW Charity Pro-Am. He finished second on the money list, earning him his PGA Tour card for 2017 as a Web.com graduate.
On the PGA Tour in 2017, Werenski had a solid rookie year with three Top-10 finishes, including a tie for second in the Barracuda Championship when he and Greg Owen lost a playoff to Chris Stroud. He earned $1,081,283 and made the 2017 FedExCup playoffs, finishing the season 106th in points to retain his card for 2018. A year ago, he had two Top-10 finishes, including a tie for second in the Barbasol Championship and made the playoffs again, finishing 110th in points to retain his card for 2019.
This year, he made 17 of 27 cuts and earned $851,329 but finished 126th in the FedExCup standings, one spot shy of retaining his card for the 2019-2020 season. This was his first start since he tied for 39th in the Wyndham Championship on Aug. 4.
MARRELLO WINS SENIOR PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Fran Marrello of Canaan Country Club shot 2-over 142 for 36 holes to win the Connecticut Senior PGA Professional Championship at Yale Golf Course in New Haven. Marrello closed with 12 consecutive pars in a final-round 72 that extended his Section record for major wins to 20 and Senior titles to seven. He finished one stroke ahead of Joe Cordani (Hop Meadow CC-Simsbury) and Mark Farrell (H. Smith-Richardson GC-Trumbull), who shared the first-round lead at 69 but closed with a bogey for a 5-over 41 on the back nine in a second-round 74.
Kevin Giancola (Golf Quest-Southington) and Jeff DelRosso (Prospect Driving Range) tied for fourth at 146, but they weren’t entered in the qualifier for the Senior PGA Professional Championship Oct. 3-6 at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas. The fourth qualifier was Dan Benedetti (Springfield CC), who finished sixth at 147. The alternates, in order, were Mike Martin (Tashua Knolls GC-Trumbull, 148), Ted Perez (East Mountain CC-Westfield, Mass., 149) and John Vitale (GolfTEC-West Hartford, 150).