Curl leads going into Final Round of State Open at TCC. By John Torsiello.
With 18 holes left to play in the 79th Connecticut Open, Jeff Curl of Ellington holds a three shot lead after a pair of 67’s and is poised to capture his second Connecticut Open title at Torrington Country Club Wednesday.
After holding a share of the overnight lead following a stellar five under-par round of 67 on day one, Curl saw his lead evaporate before he even started his second round. Jason Caron, the 2012 defending champion from Greenwich, posted a six-under-par round of 66 to take the early lead. However, the experience veteran and 2007 Connecticut Open champion used Caron’s start as motivation.
“I’ve had enough tournament experience to know that no lead is safe, especially when you tee off late on the second day,” said Curl. “I actually enjoy seeing the scores before I tee off, and if anything, seeing Jason get off to the start he did actually encouraged me, knowing that low scores were out there.”
Despite a steady wind that increased as the day went on, Curl got off to the start he needed, making birdies on his first three holes to reclaim the lead by one. Another birdie on the 7th hole gave him a two shot lead heading into the back nine.
The key point in the round came at the par-three 11th hole. After making his first bogey of the tournament on the 10th hole, Curl pulled his six-iron left on the 11th.
“I actually hit a provisional thinking it was out of play,” said Curl. It was in-bounds, and instead of a potential disaster he salvaged a bogey four.
“I hadn’t made a bogey all week, so to drop from nine under, thinking that we were cruising, to seven under was definitely a wake-up call and I struggled for four or five holes with my energy level,” said Curl.
On one of the more difficult stretches of the course, Curl rebounded strong with a birdie on 12, followed by a two-putt birdie on the par-five 16th and a 50-foot putt on 17 to finish with his second consecutive 67.
“I thought the greens were really tough, combined with the wind and the pin placements,” said Curl. “The penalty for missing it in the wrong spot is so severe, and with the uncertainty that the wind presents, it was definitely a challenge.”
After posting the low round of the championship, Curl is within striking distance. He recorded a total of seven birdies on his round, which included birdies on four of his first five holes.
“I just hung in there, played smart golf, and didn’t do anything crazy,” said Caron. “I hit a couple of great shots and made some nice putts at the right time”
Caron is seeking to become just the 12th player in Connecticut Open history to successfully defend his title, a feat last accomplished by Nick Cook in 2005 and 2006.
A trio of professionals, William Downes, Jim St. Pierre and Tommy McDonagh, all sit just four shots back at six-under-par 138.
McDonagh, a two-time Connecticut Amateur champion from East Norwalk, turned professional last year and is looking to build on memories from his amateur days. He captured his first Connecticut Amateur title in 2006 at Torrington Country Club, defeating the 2013 Connecticut Amateur champion Cody Paladino in 39 holes.
Also among those tied for third is St. Pierre, the 2002 Connecticut Open champion, who fired rounds of 70-68 for a six under-par total. St. Pierre, an assistant PGA professional at Redding Country Club, is no stranger to the big stage, having successfully qualified for three straight Travelers Championships from 2005 to 2007.
Of local interest, Plymouth’s Fran Marrello, former head pro at Canaan Country Club, goes into the final round tied for 22nd after recording a 145 total the first two days. Winsted native and former PGA Tour player Bobby Gage is tied for 26th with a 146 total, while former Lewis Mills High School star and current Lehigh University player Alex DiCemente sits in a tie for 37th at 148.
The final round will begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday in twosomes, with the leaders teeing off at 11:40 a.m.