Conn. Open: Hatten, Balin share lead
DARIEN, CT (July 31, 2012) -- “It feels like a U.S. Amateur or U.S. Open,” is how many of the players in the Connecticut State Golf Association’s 78th Open Championship are describing the playing conditions at Wee Burn Country Club in Darien. “It’s fantastic,” said long time professional Bobby Gage, “It’s exactly the way a course should be set up for a major. The course is so good you could play a USGA championship at Wee Burn right now.”

Gage was one of only three golfers to break par on Tuesday. His 1-under 71 brought his overall total to even par after 36 holes and left him alone in fourth place. Amateur Jeff Hatten from Farmington carded a 3-under par 69 for the low round of the day, and a share of the 36-hole lead at 2-under par. Greenwich professional, Daniel Balin is tied with Hatten after rounds of 70-72.

“Right now I’m just happy to be here,” said Hatten, “I’ll just try to get myself in the right mind frame tonight, and come out tomorrow and try not to put too much pressure on myself.”

Jason Caron of Greenwich followed a first round 73 with a 2-under par 70, and is in third place at 143. First round leader Mike Ballo, Jr. slipped to 77 after a first round 69, and sits in a three way tie for fifth at 146 with former champions Frank Bensel and Kyle Gallo. Bensel, the defending champion and 2009 winner, shot 75 on Tuesday after an opening round 71. Four-time champion Gallo, who won the championship most recently in 2010, has recorded rounds of 74 and 72.

The field of 129 amateurs and professionals was reduced to 40 and ties after 36 holes. With the cut at 11-over par 155, a total of 45 players survived to compete in Wednesday’s final round of the 54-hole championship. The first twosome tees off at 7:30am with the final pairing of Hatten and Balin set to go at 11:10. There is no admission and spectators are welcome.

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