CROMWELL, Conn. – James Driscoll and Steve Marino had a bit of a reunion Friday at TPC River Highlands.
The late thirtysomethings who live in Florida have each been on a yo-yo during their past few seasons in professional golf, and Driscoll is now contemplating giving up the competitive end of the game and sticking with designing clothes to protect golfers against the sins of the sun.
“I have no definite plans to play golf after this week,” said Driscoll, 39, who grew up in Brookline, Mass., and shot 2-under-par 138 for 36 holes to make the cut in the Travelers Championship, his first PGA Tour start this year. “My game is fine, but my interest level is not there.”
Driscoll’s only other pro outings in 2018 were the Massachusetts Open and a Web.com Tour event in Nashville, Tenn. Instead, he has been focusing on starting his own clothing company with an emphasis on long sleeves as protection against the sun.
“With the number of hours that golfers are in the sun, you have to have as much protection as possible,” said Driscoll, who has to battle the sun a lot when at home in Jupiter, Fla.
Driscoll, who reached the tournament in the Open qualifying on Monday, wore long sleeves, a straw hat and perforated mask. “The last thing golf needs is another clothing company but this is a long-sleeved golf shirt for the sun. I think the future is that people are going to be wearing a lot more coverage. People think I’m a little weird anyway,” said Driscoll who began wearing a Mohawk a couple of years ago, “so I don’t think people are too surprised.”
Driscoll was one of the top amateurs in New England and attended Taft School in Watertown, Conn., before becoming an All-American at Virginia under coach Mike Moraghan, a native of Litchfield, Conn., who is now the executive director of the Connecticut State Golf Association. Moraghan watched both of his former players, who played about the same time in the morning.
By the summer of 1996, Driscoll was the second-ranked junior in the country and made the final of the U.S. Junior, losing to Scott Hailes. In the 2000 U.S. Amateur, Driscoll upset Luke Donald to reach the final, where he won the final two holes to force sudden death before losing to Jeff Daniels on the third extra hole.
Driscoll turned pro in 2001 and nearly won the 2005 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, losing a playoff to University of Hartford grad Tim Petrovic. He alternated between the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour last few years and has earned $6.5 million in his career.
Marino was the son of an Air Force father, also named Steve. He was born in Altus, Okla., and later lived in Alaska, Ohio and Alabama before relocating to Fairfax, Va., where his parents continue to reside.
Marino’s father was instrumental in developing his son’s game, with the Virginia High School Championship and Virginia Amateur being younger Steve’s major accomplishments. He turned pro in 2002 on the Tar Heel Tour and later played on the Canadian, Golden Bear, Gateway and Nationwide Tours before finally reaching the PGA Tour in 2007.
Since then, Marino has had several good shots at winning, including losing playoffs to Steve Striker in the 2009 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and to Tony Finau in the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. In between, he had to battle numerous injuries, including his back, a knee and a broken leg.
Marino, who lives in Tequesta, Fla., has earned more than $10 million on the PGA Tour but is now on a major medical exemption because of his plethora of injuries. Starting the year, he needed 320 FedExCup points in 10 events, the equivalent of 125th in 2017, to regain his PGA Tour card. He entered the Travelers Championship with only three in four starts off a tie for 68th in the Valero Open. He also has three top-10 finishes in five events on the Web.com Tour, but that doesn’t count toward his renewed PGA Tour aspirations.
“It’s been an up-and-down year,” understated Marino, who is tied for 11th at 134 with 36 holes to go. “But I’ve been driving it well, haven’t really been out of position much. Hopefully I can keep it up for two more days.”
The remainder of the New England contingent in the 156-man field had mixed results. Those who will be around for the weekend are 2005 Canon Greater Hartford Open champion J.J. Henry (T25, 136), Brett Stegmaier (T34, 137), Richy Werenski (T34, 137) and Keegan Bradley (T53, 138). Those who missed the cut were Jon Curran (T102, 141), Rob Oppenhiem (T102, 141) and Adam D’Amario (155th, 154).
Being able to play 72 holes was especially meaningful for Henry, a native of Fairfield, Conn., celebrating the 20th anniversary of his tournament debut as his father, Ron, battles Parkinson’s and his mother, Nancy, fights cancer. Despite their ailments, Ron, who taught J.J. how to play and caddied for him 20 years ago, and Nancy walked 18 holes with his wife, Lee, and two boys, Connor and Carson.
“It’s pretty wild when you think about it,” said Henry, a member of the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame. “Overall, I’m pretty grateful all these years to still have a tee time and be competitive and playing here on the weekend 20 years after my first one. That means you’ve got to be pretty darn healthy and you’ve got to be pretty darn good to be competitive and still have a tee time 20 years later.
Henry was 1-over on the front nine and in danger of missing another cut but had three birdies in four holes in an incoming 32 for a second consecutive 68.
“I put a new putter in the bag, and it’s still holding me back a bit,” Henry said. “But it felt good to make the third birdies coming in so I can play on the weekend.”
Henry needs a few good finishes because he’s on the cusp of the FedEx Cup Playoffs at 141st. The 125 make the four-tournament FedEx field, starting at the Northern Trust on Aug. 23.
Stegmaier made the cut in as many tries since reaching the PGA Tour.
“I birdied the last two holes Thursday (for 70), and that gave me some momentum,” said Stegmaier, another former amateur standout in Connecticut and at the University of Florida from Madison. “Making a 30-footer for par at No. 9 today again gave me some momentum, which is always a key out here.”
Stegmaier then birdied Nos. 13 and 15 in an incoming 33 for 67 and is in position to have his best finish of the season. In 15 starts, his best showing is a tie for 43rd twice, and he has missed eight cuts, including the last four since late March.
“If you look at my FedExCup ranking (196th), it’s pretty poor,” Stegmaier said. “But I’ve missed four cuts by a shot, so the key (in the third round) is to get a good start and hopefully get some more of that momentum.”
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