CROMWELL, Conn. – At last count you barely have enough players to sit around a card table that have full playing status and are card-carrying members of the PGA Tour with true New England roots.
Many have tried and most have failed to sustain a career on the PGA Tour with consistency and longevity, but South Hadley-native Richy Werenski is enjoying his second year on Tour and loving every minute of it, especially this week at the Travelers Championship where after 54-holes he’s posted rounds of 68-69-68 -for 5 under total and T-32.
“I’m satisfied with how things are going so far this year but I know I can do better,” said Werenski, 26, who grew up next to The Orchards Golf Club, and currently resides in Jupiter, Florida. “I came here this week with the intention of winning but right now it looks like it could be a top-20 if I play well Sunday. I had a nice round going today until the double-bogey on 17, but it was nice to birdie 18.”
Through 21 tournaments (starting in October 2017) Werenski is on pace to keep his PGA Tour card and looks forward to playing in the Fed Ex Cup and Dell Technologies Championship, which takes only the top 100 players, and will be a ‘home game’ for him come Labor Day weekend at TPC Norton. He is No. 115 in Fed Ex Cup points; with 4 top-10 finishes; just under $700,000 in earnings; driving average 290-yards ranking No. 147; Greens-in-Regulation at 63 percent ranking No. 138; and Scoring average 71.54 ranking No. 152. He has missed the cut in 12 of 21 events.
“Richie is born-and-bred in western Mass and he has a lot of people who follow his performance every week on the PGA Tour,” said Jay Nomakeo, a well-known golf entrepreneur from Springfield. “Richy won the Big Break in 2015 and that was his breakout year paving his way to the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, there just aren’t that many players from New England talented enough to play on Tour and we are happy to see him succeed. “
So, how hard is it to grind out a notable career on Tour? Only four other New England players with full-status on Tour include Keegan Bradley, Jon Curran, J.J. Henry and Peter Uihlein. Bradley, 32, is having a decent year ranking No. 46 in Fed Ex Cup points and 3 top- 10s. Curran, 31, has lost his game completely missing the cut in 14 of 14 tournaments. Henry, 43, celebrating his 20 th season is struggling with 1 top-10 and ranking No. 158 in Fed Ex Cup points. Uihlein, 28, World rank No. 49, owns 56 Fed Ex Cup points with 4 top-10s.
JAMES HAHN A REAL ACE
James Hahn shot a 6-under 29 on the back nine en route to a 64 thanks mainly to one swing on No. 11 that produced a well-analyzed hole-in-one, which that slam-dunked into the cup.
“We were in between a 9 (iron) and an 8,” Hahn said. “I thought I had to play kind of a 148 shot and luckily I asked my caddie (Mark Urbanek) right before I hit it. I said, ‘What do you think I should play?’ And he said 152, so I went with his number, so I have to give him credit for that.”
Hahn said the ace was definitely a momentum pick-me-up with an interesting subplot.
“It got me back to even par for the day and then I made a couple of birdies coming in,” Hahn said. “I was kind of eyeing a 29 on the back. I didn’t want to jinx myself by trying to add up all the scores, so I didn’t hit a good shot on 18 but luckily two-putted for 29, so it gets me back in the tournament.”
Unfortunately Urbanek’s parents didn’t see the stirring finish.
“His parents were following us around the whole front nine, and they finally left,” Hahn said. “So I go birdie, hole-in-one, so I have to give them credit, too, for having to do something other than watch me play golf.”
MORE PUTTING WOES FOR SPIETH
Defending champion Jordan Spieth continued to have disagreements with a balky putter in shooting a 71 that dropped him out of contention at 3-under 217. Spieth was obviously tired of explaining his continual problems on the greens. The usually personable and analytical youngster declined to talk to the media, signed a few autographed and headed home. The man trying to join Phil Mickelson (2001-02) as the only repeat winners in the tournament’s 66-year history likely wasn’t going to sleep well. There will be no historic playoff bunker hole-outs to win in this year’s final round.
The First Tee of Connecticut Patron Breakfast on Saturday morning helped demonstrate how much the organization has done to grow the game.
About 150 folks filled the David and Geri Epstein Learning Center to hear about the many virtues of TFTCT, which now has an astonishing 74,801 members over 21 sites. This is a 20th anniversary year, it celebrates with the introduction of many sponsors and scholarship winners and a stirring talk by former University of Connecticut and NBA star Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame on Sept. 7. Allen autographed dozens of his book “From The Outside. My Journey Through Life and The Game I Love.” His former UConn teammate, Donny Marshall, was also on hand. Marshall is one of 40 members of TFTCT’s board of directors.
Mark Moriarty, TFTCT’s new executive director, discussed the countless activities done to try to stress the nine cores recommended for off the course: honest, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgement. He also recognized Karl Krapuk, whose donations produced the four-hole teaching course alongside the learning center, and many of the 38 recipients of $40,000 in scholarships. They included 14-year-old Meghan Mazumder, a ninth-grader from South Windsor, Conn., who had received one of two $20,000 scholarships from the national First Tee convention in Orlando, Fla. A film of Mazumder’s inspiring 12-minute speech to several thousand people was shown and received several rounds of applause as she stressed a theme of women’s empowerment.
Moriarty also included TPC general David Corrado, who will oversee the construction of a new 34,000-square-foot clubhouse that will begin about a week after the tournament ends and is scheduled to be ready for the 2019 tournament.