WEST HARTFORD, CT (July 19, 2016) -- Three days ago, Connor Daly (Basin Harbor Club - VT) was trying to figure out what he was going to do this week. Then, he received a call that changed everything.
Daly was an alternate in this year's New England Amateur Championship field. It wasn't until Saturday afternoon when he learned that there had been a withdrawal and he was next in line.
Although he had never played Hartford Golf Club before, the 19 year old packed his bags and took advantage of the opportunity by firing a day-low score of 3-under par 67 on Tuesday.
Daly currently holds the overall lead at this 72-hole scheduled event along with Brian Carlson (Clinton CC – CT).
"I was in a zone honestly,” said Daly who resides in Bronxville, New York but spends the summer months in Vergennes, Vermont. “I was hitting good shots onto the green and making some putts which is big.”
Although he made birdie on his first hole of the day – the 512-yard, par 5 10th hole – Daly was 1-over par through his first 11 holes.
“I honestly get off to slow starts most of the time and it takes me a while to get a feel for the tournament,” said Daly. “This is something new for me.”
What was new and most welcome for Daly on this day was his finish. He made birdie on four straight holes on the Hartford GC front nine and played his final eight holes at 4-under par to catapult up the leaderboard.
“I feel like there are moments in time when I can get on a good stretch of holes which is really nice,” said Daly. “I am just happy that it happened in the first round, and I was able to get off to a good start and not have to really come back like I am sometimes used to doing.”
Daly began his four-hole birdie stretch by sinking a difficult 12-foot putt.
“It broke like six feet,” said Daly. “The pin was in the front right so that was huge to make a really difficult putt like that. It gave me a lot of confidence.”
Next he sent his 9-iron approach on the par-3 3rd hole to six inches and then landed his third shot from the par-5, 4th hole greenside bunker to four feet. An aggressive drive off the next tee set up his final birdie of the day.
“There was water left and a tree by the tee box so I tried to hit it down the left side and be kind of aggressive with the tee shot so that I only had 120 in or so,” said Daly. “I hit that to eight feet but past the pin which was a mistake. Somehow I was able to trickle that in the left side for birdie.”
He capped off his round by making four straight pars for his 3-under par 67.
“It’s pretty challenging and these greens are tough,” said Daly. “It may not be that long, but when you get to the greens it’s a different animal for sure.”
Daly is coming off a spring season which saw him capture the New York State Golf Championship for Bronxville High School. He also committed to play for Villanova University in the fall.
“I figured why not try to register for this tournament and play against this great field,” said Daly. "I have been doing a much better job of thinking my way around a golf course.”
Carlson At Home at This NEGA Event
Brian Carlson clearly has a strong affinity for NEGA events.
After all, the Madison, Connecticut resident has twice won the individual stroke-play title at the New England Junior Amateur Invitational – in 2012 and 2013 – and today he shares the lead at the 2016 New England Amateur Championship.
Capturing a title this week would be extra sweet for the rising Purdue University junior as the event is being held in his home state.
“I like it,” said Carlson, who finished T3 at the 2015 New England Amateur Championship. “It’s home for me, and it’s great to be back here for the summer.”
Carlson is coming off a stellar sophomore season for the Boilermakers where he was named to the All-Big Ten second team and the GCAA All-Region Team and was a Big Ten Golfer of the Week twice.
On this day, Carlson survived an up-and-down first nine holes where he made just one par over nine holes. He made the turn after making four birdies (1st, 3rd, 4th and 9th holes), three bogies and one eagle.
"It was good and bad and up and down,” said Carlson. “I had one par so it was kind of a grind, and then I got on a streak.”
One highlight from his round came on the 407-yard, par 4 7th hole and right after Carlson had made bogey on the previous hole.
“I had a 2 iron off the tee and hit it pretty bad,” said Carlson. “I had 160 yards and hit a nice little 9 iron into the hole.” His playing partner, Matt Hutchins, was quick to call the holed-out shot that reached the green and then spun back into the hole, “pretty cool”.
Despite increasingly difficult and windy playing conditions on the back nine, Carlson was able to cap off his round with a back-nine of even par 35 and an overall score of 3-over par 67.
“It was back and forth but on the back I steadied out,” said Carlson. “I had the two bogies on 11 and 12 but the birdie on 15 which helped.”
Carlson has already enjoyed a strong summer season. Last month, he finished T4 at the 2016 Northeast Amateur Invitational where he was just two strokes off the championship pace. Eight days ago, he claimed the first alternate spot at the U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier held at Ellington Ridge Country Club
Following 18 holes and with 54 left before a champion is crowned, Carlson is feeling right at home here at Hartford GC.
“This course is pretty manageable given pretty much a lot of conditions,” said Carlson. “You have to stay on the right side of the greens.”
Journeyman Hutchins Continues Strong Play
It doesn’t matter what state he plays in, Matt Hutchins (Falmouth CC – ME) always seems to bring his best to the golf course.
Hutchins, on the heels of his recent victory at the 2016 Maine Amateur Championship, posted a 1-under par 68 on Tuesday.
Hutchins trails first-round co-leaders Carlson and Daly by just two strokes.
“I went out with two good guys right here and we were able to play some decent golf and manage the wind,” said Hutchins, whose day-one trio included Carlson and Patrick Frodigh (Dedham C&PC – MA). “None of us had really seen the course too much, so we were just trying to get used to it.”
A native of Massachusetts, Hutchins spent most of his youth playing golf at Charter Oak Country Club in Hudson. His family recently took up residence in Falmouth, Maine where he currently resides when not attending college on the West Coast.
In the past two months, Hutchins has made an imprint on four New England states.
He first finished T3 overall and as low amateur at the Massachusetts Open Championship. He went on to place T35 at the Northeast Amateur Invitational held at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rutland, Rhode Island and then captured the 2016 Maine Amateur Championship at York Golf & Tennis Club.
This week, he has set his sights on the Nutmeg State where he is looking to capture his first NEGA Championship title.
“It is crazy,” said Hutchins, who yesterday finished just two strokes off the pace at a U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier held at The Ledges Golf Club in York, Maine. “I love New England golf. This is where my roots are, so I really enjoy playing up here.”
During the first round of this Championship Proper, Hutchins proved that he is a quick learner on a course that he had not played before. Following a bogey on his second hole of the day, Hutchins played 3-under par golf through his next eight holes. That stretch included birdies made on the 4th, 9th and 10th holes.
“You have to hit it in the right parts of the green because you can get some really tough chip shots,” said Hutchins. “I was fortunate enough to chip pretty well today.”
With the wind picking up in Hartford as the morning wore on, Hutchins was able to keep his focus and manage the challenging championship layout that is a combination of Donald Ross and Devereaux Emmett design. He made just one bogey on the back nine to finish at 1-under par 69.
“I have had a really good mental game,” said Hutchins. “I am just going out there and trying to stay level headed and not really let bad shots affect me and not getting too excited on good shots.”
Hutchins will look to continue success this week and is already looking forward to the fall season when he will suit up for the UCLA golf team
View results for New England Amateur Golf Championship