Foster captures Connecticut Senior Open golf title at Shenny

Groton Standing over a Connecticut Senior Open championship-sealing putt, Kevin Foster tried to block out what was at stake.

"I was very nervous," Foster said. "You try to keep out that for the win thing out of the process but it always creeps in."

Foster completed a late final round comeback by sinking a relatively straight six-foot birdie putt to capture the 31st Connecticut Senior Open title Tuesday at Shennecossett Golf Course. He's the first amateur to win the event twice, also accomplishing the feat in 2004.

Trailing by a stroke after Monday's opening round, Foster played steady golf to remain in contention. Leader Ralph Salito of Trumbull eventually faltered, as he bogeyed three of the last five holes, including No. 16 to fall into a tie at 3-under.

Foster capitalized, completing his round with four pars and a birdie.

"I thought Ralph was in commmand for the most part," Foster said. "I don't know what happened to him on 16. That's where it turned."

After Foster's second shot landed in the front green-side bunker on the final hole, he recovered nicely, setting up a short putt with a beautiful sand shot.

Foster finished with a two-round total of 4-under 138 (69-69) while Salito, who bogeyed the final hole, tied for second with Jerry Courville at 140.

A Simsbury resident, Foster won his first Connecticut Senior title in 2004 when bad weather limited the competition to just one round.

"It's great," Foster said of the win. "Winning is always good. And I hope the event stays here for a long time. The people are just so nice at Shennecossett. ... They get the golf course in great shape. The women serving food are wonderful and the pro shop is great.

"... The course was the best I've seen it. ... This is a wonderful place to play, especially if you're a senior."

Challenging conditions, including firm, fast greens, blazing hot temperatures and a steady breeze, helped elevate scores. Only six golfers finished under par.

Count amateur Dave Jones of Norwich in that top group. Jones finished in a three-way tie for fourth with a 1-under 141 (71-70). He also placed fourth last year in his Connecticut Senior Open debut.

Through 13 holes, Jones stood at 2-under for the tournament. But trouble on the par 4, 14th hole basically pushed him out of contention. His tee shot landed in the fairway bunker and he ended up with a double bogey.

"It was a quick double," Jones said, "And I was playing so well, too."

For the second straight year, Jones entered the second day of the event within striking distance of the lead. He trailed Salito by three strokes after the first round.

His second round got off a promising start, as he drained a 30-foot putt on the third hole for one of his four birdies. He made a 15-foot birdie putt on 11 to lower his score to 2-under.

He only had one bogey until the 14th hole. He finished with the same two-round total as last year.

"My time will come, I really feel that way," said Jones, whose wife, Jo Ann, served as his caddy. "Even after the double bogey, Jo Ann realy helped me to stay positive. ... I finished pretty strong."

Jones has a busy week ahead. He'll play in the Norwich Invitational this weekend and compete in a U.S Amateur qualifier Tuesday at Crestview Country Club in Agawam, Mass.

Several other local competitors in Tuesday's final round field of 78 golfers couldn't duplicate their first round totals.

Sean Grimsey of Waterford (75-76), Richard Wilczewski of Old Lyme (74-77), Bill Hermanson of East Lyme (72-79) and Mark Toscano of Westerly (71-80) all finished tied for 43rd at 151. Tony Susi of Gales Ferry was 71st with a 155 (76-79).

g.keefe@theday.com

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