HEBRON, Conn. (Sept. 24, 2013) -- Jack Bracken of Hartford Golf Club captured the 68th Connecticut Senior Amateur Championship at Tallwood Country Club on Tuesday, shooting a final round 76 for a 145 (+1) total to win by two shots over Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club.
Conducted by the Connecticut State Golf Association, the Connecticut Senior Amateur Championship is presented by Johnson Brunetti and is a 36-hole stroke play competition being played at Tallwood Country Club on Monday and Tuesday, September 23rd and 24th. The championship is open to Connecticut senior golfers who are fifty five years of age and over by the start of the event. The par-72 layout was originally founded in 1974 and is set up to play at a total of 6,287 yards for the competitors.
After opening the tournament with an impressive bogey-free 69 in Round 1, Bracken carried a four shot lead heading into the final round. However, a total of fifteen players began the day within five shots, and on a cold, windy day, he knew his lead wasn’t safe.
“The toughest thing was arriving here this morning and everyone congratulating me on the score and on not making a bogey,” said Bracken. “Of course, they meant nothing but the best, but there were definitely some nerves on the first few holes.”
The bogey-free streak he fought so hard for yesterday was over after the first hole, when he three-putted for a bogey six. After making a par save on the second hole, Bracken stumbled with bogies on Holes #3, 5, 6 and 9.
“After making bogey on the sixth hole, all I could think about was the recent history of players in events having big leads after the first round, and then letting them slip away. No matter how well you play the first day, it really means nothing.”
After turning in five over-par 40 on the front nine, Bracken stood on the 10th tee clinging to a one stroke advantage. In just over two hours, his seemingly insurmountable lead had dwindled to just one over Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club, who was mid-way through his back nine.
“It was one of those days where every time I thought I was turning it around, I would get knocked down again.” After driving it left on the 10th hole into the trees, he was forced to pitch out into the fairway. Needing a spark to jump-start his back nine, he hit his approach to within five feet and made a crucial par save.
Another bogey on the 12th hole, followed by a trio of long par saves on the 13th, 14th and 15th holes, and Bracken arrived at the 479-yard par-5 16th hole trailing Hermanson by one. Reachable in two for only the longest of players, he hit his tee shot down the right side and had 207 yards left to the hole. From that point, he hit the shot of his tournament, and perhaps the shot of his life.
“No more than three inches away”, said Bracken with a big smile. The eagle, one of only two made all week, propelled him back into the lead.
Knowing that he still needed to finish strong on the closing holes to have a chance to win, he stepped up and hit a pair of near-300 yard tee shots down the middle of the fairway. After hitting both approach shots on the green, a pair of two-putt pars was all that was needed, and the Senior Amateur title that he had been chasing for so long was finally his.
“To win today is amazing, but the most important thing for me was all of the encouragement I received throughout the tournament from so many of my friends”, said a teary-eyed Bracken. “I know, win or lose, they would have supported me, and to be standing here in front of them with the trophy after forty years of playing CSGA events, is truly incredible.”
The win is Bracken’s first CSGA major championship, although he is no stranger to competitive golf. Bracken made history two weeks ago when he became the oldest Club Champion at Hartford Golf Club, and the first to capture the title in four different decades. He was also twice a runner-up at the Connecticut Amateur Championship, and has qualified for numerous USGA Championships. However, winning today puts an exclamation point on an already stellar tournament resume.
With his win, Bracken earned an automatic invitation to the 80th Tri-State Matches, which will be played on October 10th and 11th at Warwick Country Club. The annual matches bring together teams of twelve players from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island in a two-day competition for the regional title. The remaining players, which will be determined by position in the CSGA Player of the Year and Senior Player of the Year points standings, will be announced later this week.
Bill Hermason finished the tournament two shots back after shooting rounds of 75-72—147 (+3). The five-time Connecticut Mid-Amateur Champion and Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame member also finished Runner-Up at the New England Senior Amateur last week, and will likely join Bracken on the Tri-State team in Rhode Island. Robert Barnes of the Course at Yale, Larry Bolduc of Tallwood Country Club and Jon Groveman of Connecticut Golf Club all rounded out the top five with scores of 148 (+4).
The CSGA concludes its championship season next Monday and Tuesday, September 30th and October 1st, when it hosts the 28th Connecticut Public Links Championship at Manchester Country Club. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend. For more information on the Public Links Championship, visit CTPublicLinks.com.