HARTFORD, Conn. – After shooting a course record-tying, 7-under-par 65 in the first round for a two-stroke lead in the inaugural Connecticut PGA Open at Gillette Ridge Golf Club, Fletcher Babcock had an adventurous final 18 holes.
But after losing his lead in the first two holes of the final round and falling two back after No. 7, Fletcher of Danielson righted the ship in shooting a 71 for a 36-hole total of 8-under 136 and a two-stroke victory over former Connecticut Open champions and playing partners Max Theodorakis and Jim Becker.
Max Theodorakis, of Danbury, birdied the first two holes and took a one-stroke lead when Babcock bogeyed No. 5. Jim Becker, of Bloomfield, bogeyed the second hole but got even with birdies at Nos. 4, 6 and 7, where Theodorakis made birdie to move one ahead of Becker and two in front of Babcock, who made a bogey.
Things changed dramatically on the par-3 ninth hole, where Babcock made a 30-foot birdie putt while Becker parred and Theodorakis three-putted for bogey, leaving the trio tied at 6 under.
“I knew I didn’t have my best game up to that point,” Babcock told ctpga.com. “But I was still in it, and I just told myself I had to start playing like I knew how to.”
The three leaders parred the 10th and 11th holes but suddenly were only one ahead of Tim Hegarty of Briarcliff, N.Y., who was playing four groups ahead and got within a stroke of the lead. But Hegarty finished bogey-triple bogey to shoot 71 and drop in a tie for eighth at 143.
Theodorakis birdied the 13th and 14th holes to reach 8 under and take a two-stroke lead over Babcock and Becker, but Nos. 15 and 16 proved to be pivotal. At the par-3 15th hole, Becker birdied, Babock parred and Theodorakis made a double bogey. Then on No. 16, Babcock birdied while Becker and Theodorakis each bogeyed. Becker bogeyed the 17th hole as Babcock made a birdie and Theodorakis a par.
Standing on the 18th tee, Babcock had the two-stroke lead that he had at the start of the final round. The three frontrunners each hit the par-4 18th hole in regulation, and Babcock sent his birdie try to clinch 31/2 feet past the hole. Theodorakis lipped out his birdie bid, and Becker failed to convert from 6 feet. So Babcock had the luxury of two putts for the win but needed only one to become the first champion of the Connecticut PGA Open.
With three sets of tees used for men 49 and under, men 50 and over and women, all professional prize money and amateur golf shop credit was awarded based upon finish within one’s division.
Babcock earned the $2,000 first prize in the 49-and-under division; Becker claimed $1,700 in the 50-and-over division; and Marie Allo of Newington (155) won $1,000 for the women’s division. Jo Rasmussen of Westport (166) was low women’s amateur, and Johnny Bush of Cranford, N.J. (143) was the men’s low amateur.
The tournament was supported and sponsored in part by the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour.