Strong fields expected for two local marquee golf tournaments

Golf tournament season is in full swing.

Two of the area's marquee events will tee off in the upcoming days.

The 91st Norwich Invitational, the second oldest amateur tournament in the state, begins on Friday with qualifying round action and culminates with Sunday's always entertaining final at Norwich Golf Course.

The 35th Connecticut Senior Open will be held for the 20th consecutive year at Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton. The two-day event runs Monday and Tuesday.

For competitors like Dave Jones of Norwich and Bill Hermanson of East Lyme, who've participated in both tournaments in recent years, the stretch is a golf marathon, presenting an opportunity to play for five straight days.

They will be just two of the former champions in the approximately 120-golfer field for the Norwich Invitational.

"We're ready to go," Norwich pro Mike Svab said. "We have a strong field. ... We've got a lot of past champions."

Jones (2010, 2015) and Hermanson (1995, 1996) are both two-time winners. Last year's champion Nick Harrington, a member of the UConn golf team and former all-state standout from Parish Hill in Chaplin, also returns. Harrington defeated Jones, 3-and-2, to earn his first title in a well-played championship match.

Phil Perry, a five-time champion from East Lyme, is another title contender. He last won in 2006, capping a streak of four straight victories. Kevin Marcoux (2012), the Killingly golf coach, Brian Bardier (2007), Jim Sowders, Jr. (1999) and Steve Gambeski, a five-time winner, also will be competing this weekend.

Former UConn golfer Chris DeLucia, a seven-time Norwich club champion, is another golfer to watch. The St. Bernard School graduate once fired a 63 on the course.

Svab added that there will be a lot of young golfers playing this weekend.

The weather is expected to cooperate. Showers are in the forecast for Friday but the weekend looks great. That's good news for golfers who usually have to endure steamy hot conditions.

"The course is in very good shape," Svab said. "It's been a funny year so far with all the rain we've had. But we're in the usual shape. The rain has helped. Our rough is still thick."

Svab couldn't pull it off without help from his team, including assistant Jeffrey Doerr. Once again, John Marion and Larry Carver will handle the scoring, which will be live on the golf course website Friday.

"We're pretty proud of this tournament," Svab said. "The members' association does a great job running it and the superintendent does a great job getting the course ready. ... It's a fun weekend. It's a fun to watch those guys play. There's some serious quality golf going on Sunday afternoon."

Tournament season also is a chance for superintendents to show off their courses. Norwich's Bruce Morse and Shennecossett's Eric Morrison are two of the best around.

The Connecticut Senior Open will feature its usual stellar field. Defending champion Eric Egloff of Silver, Md., won't be back but former winners Jim Becker (2012, 2015), Kevin Foster (2004, 2013), Jerry Courville, Jr. (2009, 2014), Dave Szewczul (2010), Ralph Salito (2007) and 2016 runners-up Dave Dell and Ken Green will be among the 156 players competing.

Jones, who earned low amateur honors in 2012 and 2015; Hermanson, a Connecticut Hall of Famer; and NFA graduate John Elliott, who's played two PGA Tour Champions events this year and made the cut both times are the locals to watch.

First-round action is Monday, with the low 72, plus ties, advancing to Tuesday's final round.

Other golfers with local ties include: Stonington Country Club pro Michael Myszkowski, Mark Vinchesi of Old Lyme, Phil Krick of Baltic, Mark Toscano of Westerly, Chris Grimsey of Uncasville,  Chris Hedden of Waterford, David Wheatley of Oakdale,  Michael Minkos of South Lyme, Tony Susi of Gales Ferry and Mitch Marrow of Groton. Vinchesi is the co-owner of Great Brook Sports in Groton while Hedden is the teaching pro at Elmridge Golf Course.

Short putts

• Recent NFA graduate Noah Straub, The Day's 2017 All-Area Golfer of the Year, qualified for match play at the 76th Connecticut Junior Amateur earlier this week at Watertown Golf Club. Straub shot a 2-over 73 and earned the eighth seed. His run ended in the first round, as he suffered a 4-and-2 loss to No. 25 James Bosworth.

• There's a new business in the area that can help sharpen your golf game. The Mohegan Sun Golf Academy just opened in Baltic. PGA Professional Michel Painchaud offers instruction to players of all abilities. The facility includes a golf fitness room, short game area, natural turf practice range and cutting-edge technology. There also is a custom club fitting program.

Membership is $274 per person. For more information, visit mohegansungolfclub.com/golf-academy, or call (860) 862-9235.

• Bill Howard experienced a thrill last month.

The NFA golf coach played the prestigious Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. The club has hosted five major championships, including three U.S. Opens.

"It was a lot of fun, no doubt about it," Howard said recently. "It was pretty special."

His college roommate and close friend Bill Sullivan helped arrange the outing. Sullivan is married to former UConn standout Jen Rizzotti, who coaches the George Washington women's basketball team.

Howard, a former UConn golfer, shot a respectable 79 on the challenging course.

"I'll take it," Howard said.

• The Pequot Men's Golf Association's President's Cup competition has reached the semifinals. Pete Smyth, Joe Pratt, Jr., Bruce Rebello and John Miner qualified for the final four. A champion will be crowned in the upcoming weeks.

Upcoming events

• Madison Country Club will host the Connecticut State Golf Association's 81st Father & Son Championship on July 25.

• The Pequot men's club championship stroke play tournament begins on July 30 with first-round action. Rounds two and three will be Aug. 5 and Aug. 6, respectively.

• The Shennecossett Golf Course men's club championship tees off on Aug. 5 and finishes with championship round play on Aug. 13. First-time winner Craig Lambert beat Steve Chevalier in last year's final.

• Please email any golf tournament results, aces, or interesting golf-related news to g.keefe@theday.com

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