HARTFORD, Conn. – Kyle Puzzo provided another Ripley’s Believe It Or Not moment in the first hole of the 88th Connecticut PGA Championship.
Puzzo, the assistant pro at Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., became a registered PGA of America associate member and entered his first Section tournament five days before the event started. And on his first swing as a professional in the final group the first day, Puzzo made a hole-in-one on the 330-yard, downhill par-4 first hole at Keney Park Golf Course.
Quite a memorable way to start your pro career.
“I thought the guys on the green were upset with me,” Puzzo said after his round. “They were waving their hands, and I didn’t realize until I walked about 40 yards from the green that they weren’t pulling my leg and the ball actually went in.”
Unfortunately for Puzzo, it was all downhill from there on his scorecard as he made two birdies, four bogeys and two double-bogey 6s the rest of the way in shooting a 4-over-par 74 for a tie for 25th place. Things got worse in the second round as he shot 83 for a 17-over 157 total that was 24 strokes behind his boss, Chris Tallman, the general manager at Orchards GC who supervises Puzzo.
Tallman’s opening 66 shared the lead with Bill Street, the head pro at Whitney Farms GC in Monroe. Tallman, the 2018 Connecticut Section PGA Player of the Year who played in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell in June, heard about Puzzo’s heroics while on the course.
“Before he started today, Kyle said he was coming after me,” Tallman, winner of the 2018 Connecticut Section Professional Championship, said after his four-birdie, no-bogey first round. “I guess he really meant it.”
But Tallman was the main story the final day, carding five birdies, including three in a row at Nos. 12-14, in a 3-under 67 for a seven-stroke victory over five players that earned him $4,200. The man with a sizable lead in the Player of the Year race this year was the only one of 54 players to finish under par.
Street spiced his first round with an eagle 2 at the 12th hole to get to 6 under, but two closing bogeys cost him the outright lead. Matters got worse in the second round as he bogeyed five of the last six holes on the front nine on the way to 74 and a tie for second at 140.
Others who shared the runner-up spot were Frank Leja of Springfield CC (72-68), Zac Stennett of Tallwood CC in Hebron (71-69), Aaron Ungvarsky of SwingU (73-67) and Joe Mentz (68-72), the head pro at Goodwin Park GC, the sister club of Keney Park in Hartford.
The $19,150 championship was played at the site of the recent Girls and Boys PGA of America Junior Championships.
JIM HANLON NAMED PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR
In other Section news, Jim Hanlon of The Farms Country Club in Wallingford was named recipient of the Section’s highest honor, Professional of the Year. The award is given for overall performance as a golf professional, leadership, service to his/her Section, the ability to inspire fellow professionals and the promotion of the game.
Hanlon will join 2019 Hall of Fame inductees Chuck Lasher, Lindsey Hansen and Mike Bailey as headliners for the Hall of Fame and PGA Special Awards Dinner on Nov. 24 at Lake of Isles in North Stonington.
“Jim has been a consummate golf professional,” Section president Howie Friday said. “He’s as deserving as any PGA professional and one who has been admired for years by his members and peers alike.”
Hanlon, who was elected to PGA of America membership in 1997, has served as head pro at The Farms for the past 20 years. Before taking on the lead role at the Wallingford club, he was an assistant pro at the Country Club of Waterbury and Race Brook Country Club in Orange.
It was at Race Brook under the tutelage of Frank Selva that helped shape Hanlon’s professional philosophy that he carries with him today.
“Frank taught me that if I greet people properly, get them to the tee on time and with ease, make sure they play in a reasonable amount of time and show interest in their experience, they will reward me by continuing their membership at the club.”
Other Special Awards winners were Michel Painchaud, Mohegan Sun Golf Club-Uncasville, Teacher of the Year; Tony Rowe, Rolling Meadows GC-Ellington, Bill Strausbaugh Award; Ron Beck, Lake of Isles, Horton Smith Award; Josh Detmer, Go Golf Academy-Madison, Player Development Award; John Dipollina, Golf Center at Lyman Orchards GC-Middlefield; David DiRico, Dave DiRico’s Golf & Racquet-West Springfield, Mass., Merchandiser of the Year (public); Justin Foster, Ridgewood CC-Danbury, Merchandiser of the Year (private); Richard Bray, Hartford GC, Assistant Professional of the Year; Philip Krick Jr., Mohegan Sun GC-Uncasville, Patriot Award; Jeff Dibona, Golf Representative of the Year.
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