Curl rebounds from bad finish on 18 to win CT State Open in playoff..Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Talk about emotional roller coasters. Get this: Jeff Curl started the final round of the 54-hole Connecticut State Open at Torrington Country in the lead at 10-under-par, he slipped to six under during the third round, got it back to 10 under at one point, and then made bogey and double bogey on the final two holes of his round to fall into a four-way tie for first with Ben Conroy, Eric Steger and Bill Downes.
The 31-yeare-old Curl, who once made his golf money on the Web.com Tour, plays out of Cedar Knob Golf Course in, and is the son of former PGA Tour player Rod Curl, shook his head in disbelief as he walked off the 18th green, wondering how in the world he had let the tournament slip through is grasp after shooting a three-over-par 75.
But somehow, as professional golfers can do, Curl summoned an inner revolve, stepped to the first tee about 15 minutes after completing his round and launched a long drive down the left side of the first hole as he and the three others went to a playoff. Curl hit a wedge from the rough to within 32 feet of the cup, while Downes came up short and Steger and Conroy both found the green about 35 feet from the hole. After Steger and Conroy (who shot a 65 Wednesday) missed their putts, Curl got over his ball and rolled it steadily and surely toward the cup and the sphere dropped in for a stunning birdie, Curl punctuating the effort with fist pumps and yells of “Yes!” The fourth member of the group, Downes, hit a chip that missed the cup wide and Curl was the 2013 State Open champ (he also won in 2007) and $12,500 richer.
“Honestly, if I had to putt first and hadn’t seen what the other guys’ putts did from about the same spot and distance I would have come up short,” said Curl, as he walked towards the clubhouse, while fans shook his hand and patted him on the back. “I hit the putt harder than I would have and 10 feet from the hole I knew it was perfect and that it just had to get to the hole.” It did.
On his manic round, Curl commented, “When I fell to six-under-par and behind several other guys I told myself that were still a lot of holes ahead of me. Honestly, there was a period during the round that my game completely left me but I hung in there and got it going again until the final two holes of regulation.”
Curl, who was nine-under-par at the time, said he thought he had only a one-stroke lead going to the 18th tee and not a two-shot advantage over Jason Caron, who was at seven under, and three others. He said the mistake in judgment cost him dearly on the finishing hole. Both men pushed their tee shots into the trees on the right side of the hole with Curl hitting a tree on his second shot and then finding the green on his third. Caron meanwhile, also hit a tree with his second shot, left it short in a trap, and his fourth landed about six feet past the cup.
With Caron putting for bogey and the next closest pursuers at seven-under-par, all Curl had to do was two-putt from 35 feet for the victory. But he misread the putt to be faster than it was, left himself six feet short and missed the next putt for a crushing (it seemed at the time) double bogey six. By the way, Caron sank his putt for bogey but missed the playoff by one shot and had what-iffing of his own to do after he bogeyed the final two holes.
Said Curl of 18, “I thought I was one stroke up so I hit hybrid because I didn’t want anything more than a seven-iron for my second shot. In retrospect, if I had known I had a two-shot lead I would have hit four-iron, and then six-iron or five-iron into the green.”
Curl said he and his caddie, Jeff Swanson, made a beautiful read on the winning putt on the first playoff hole, which was number one at TCC.
“We both read it two cups out on the left and I struck it well. I was just so happy that it went in.”
Of local interest, Plymouth’s Fran Marrello shot a final round 70 to finish at one-under-par and in a tie for 16th place. Winsted native Bobby Gage shot a 74 to finish tied for 27th at four-over-par, and former Lewis Mills High School standout Alex DiClemente, playing out of Harwinton’s Fairview Farm Golf Course, shot a final round 75 to finish at seven-over-par and in a tie for 38th.