Local golf notebook: Hendrickson, Vaccari part of a deep Norwich Invitational field

Dan Hendrickson follows through on a putt as he watches the ball drop into the cup on the third hole during the championship round of last summer's Norwich Invitational on July 21, 2013. He'll effort to defend his title this weekend.
Buy Photo Tim Martin/THE DAY Dan Hendrickson follows through on a putt as he watches the ball drop into the cup on the third hole during the championship round of last summer's Norwich Invitational on July 21, 2013. He'll effort to defend his title this weekend.

Golfers are rarely satisfied after their round.

There's always something to complain about.

The course is too challenging.

Rough is too deep.

Weather is too hot.

"Golfers are never happy," Jerry Courville said.

And Courville said that after winning the Connecticut Senior Open on the second play-off hole on Tuesday at Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton.

Well, golfers should have little to complain about this weekend at the 88th Norwich Invitational, the longest running amateur tournament in the state.

Near ideal weather conditions are expected. Norwich Golf Course is in terrific shape. And the annual invite's family reunion atmosphere usually lifts everyone's mood.

Head pro Mike Svab, assistant Jeffrey Doerr, superintendent Bruce Morse and the rest of the Norwich staff are ready for the tournament to tee off. One hundred and thirty-one golfers will play in today's qualifying round.

"The golf course is in beautiful shape," Doerr said. "The maintenance guys are strutting around like peacocks."

Dan Hendrickson of Charlotte is back to defend his championship flight title. A Waterford native, he played in the tournament for the first time in over 20 years last summer, beating Adam Vaccari, 2 and 1, in the championship match.

He's coming off a solid performance earlier this week at the Connecticut Senior Open where he tied for 18th overall with a 2-over 144 (70-74).

Another golfer to watch is Steve Gambeski, who ran away with the Norwich men's club championship last month. He's a former Invite champion.

"He's going to be a handful," Doerr said. "He's pretty good. He's a scratch golfer."

Vaccari will attempt to complete the championship journey this weekend. His former UConn golf teammate, Chris DeLucia, also will likely be in the hunt. DeLucia won a record seven Norwich club championships but is still searching for his first Invite title.

Five-time Invite champion Phil Perry and accomplished amateur golfer Bill Hermanson, both from East Lyme and members at Black Hall Club in Old Lyme, and also are in the field. They're in a formidable foursome that also includes Hendrickson and Dave Jones of Norwich. Kevin Marcoux, the 2012 champ, also could be a major factor this weekend.

Winning medalist honors in today's qualifying round doesn't guarantee championship flight success. Just ask Perry.

Perry shot a 5-under 66 last year but then lost to Hendrickson in the first round of match play.

Last year's Championship Flight Final Four featured Hendrickson, DeLucia, Vaccari and Matt Lame, a Ledyard High School graduate.

After flights are set today for match play, tournament play continues Saturday with first- and second-round matches. Semifinals will be held Sunday morning and finals in the afternoon.

Short putts

• Here's good luck to Chuck Slenker, the now former teaching pro at Elmridge Golf Course. He's moving to Sarasota, Fla., in the near future.

"I can't wait," Slenker said. "I'm looking forward to my new adventure in my life."

Slenker, who turns 67 next month, served as a rules official for the Connecticut Senior Open. He was smiling while riding around in the golf cart. He always looks truly happy whenever he's on the golf course.

His teaching days aren't over. He plans to look for work in Florida. He'll be living within 10 miles of five golf courses.

• With Slenker heading south, Elmridge has hired Chris Hedden as its teaching pro. Hedden has been working at Great Brook Golf Center in Groton. He won two state high school individual titles and two teams championships during his Waterford High School glory days.

Hedden is in charge of Elmridge's four-day youth golf camp. Here's the information: sessions run Aug. 4-7, Aug. 11-14, Aug. 18-21 and Aug. 25-18. It is open to ages 7-15 and operates from 9 a.m.-noon each day. Cost is $300 and includes range balls and greens fees. Space is limited to eight golfers per sessions.

To register, call Hedden at (860) 303-6101.

• The CSGA has named Frankie Lee, a Norwich Free Academy graduate, one of 12 William "Widdy" Neale scholarship winners. Lee plans to attend Franklin and Marshall in Lancaster, Pa.

Scholarship recipients are all employed at Connecticut golf clubs. Lee has a job at Norwich Golf Course.

• Paul and Chris DeLucia finished tied for fifth with a 72 at the Connecticut State Golf Association's 78th Father & Son Championship on Wednesday at Lyman Orchards Golf Course in Middlefield. Chris and William Simione won the event with a 2-under 70.

Other local finishers included: Frank (Mohegan Sun Country Club at Pautipaug) and Frank Villazante III (Golf Course at Windham), 74; John and Keegan Bauman (Black Hall), 75; Mark and James LaPietra (Shenny), 77; Frankie and Stephen Lee (Norwich), 77; Richard and Mark Broadbent (Shenny), 81; William (Mohegan Sun) and Bill Machnicki Jr. (Harrisville GC), 83.

Andrew Campbell of Black Hall, Archie Cart of Lake of Isles, Mitchell Etess of Mohegan Sun and Barney Caulfield of Norwich are signed up to play in the National Car Rental PGA Pro-Officer event on Tuesday at Shuttle Meadow in Kensington.

Upcoming events

• The Norwich Junior Club Championship will tee off on July 26. Entry deadline is Wednesday.

• The 80th Connecticut Open is set for July 28-30 at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton. Kevin Riley of Pequot Golf Club qualified at Shuttle Meadow Country Club on Monday while Michael Masso of Lake of Isles and Dave Jones of Mohegan Sun Country Club qualified at Mohegan Sun on June 26.

• Pequot men's club championship first round action tees off on Sunday, July 27. Second round is set for Saturday, Aug. 2, with the third and final round on Sunday, Aug. 3.

g.keefe@theday.com

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