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    Thursday, August 11, 2022

    Local golf: Scott Budner returns to Shenny after a nearly 50-year absence

    On a recent weekday afternoon, Scott Budner walked into the Shennecossett Golf Course pro shop for the first time in nearly 50 years.

    A 1974 Fitch High School graduate, Budner made the trip back to the area on a free day from his job as pitching coach for the Albany Tri-City Valleycats, an independent league team in Troy, N.Y.

    Budner, 65, looked forward to playing a round of golf.

    "I just wanted to come down and play the course that I used to play 50 years ago," said Budner, who started high school at Ledyard and then moved on to Fitch.

    Budner came out of retirement last month after getting a phone call from Tri-City manager Pete Incaviglia. He was living a comfortable, laid-back life in Arizona at the time.

    Never did Budner think he'd be back in the game until Incaviglia reached out.

    "I've been in professional baseball for a couple hundred years before dirt was invented," Budner said. "I just retired three seasons ago after 40-some years in pro ball. I was just drinking wine and playing golf out in Arizona, which is good.

    "Then I got a call from Pete Incaviglia. He begged me and talked me out of retirement, so I'm just helping him out for a few months this summer."

    Budner has an impressive baseball resume.

    A confident lefthander with a devastating breaking ball and lethal pick-off move, Budner had a terrific career at Eastern Connecticut State, leading the nation in total strikeouts and strikeout average and ranking third in earned run average in 1977. He's a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.

    He was thrilled to see Eastern win the NCAA Division III national championship this season.

    "We put them on the map in the 70s, because (Eastern coach) Bill Holowaty was the greatest recruiter," Budner said. "He got all the good players. UConn, UMass wouldn't even play us. We had all the best players."

    Budner was selected in the sixth round of the 1977 major league amateur draft by San Francisco. In his five-year playing career, he pitched for the Giants and Orioles, making it as far as Class AA.

    His lengthy career as a minor league pitching coach included jobs with the Oakland, Anaheim, Seattle and Miami organizations. While at Class AA San Antonio, he worked with Felix Hernandez, who went on to win the American League Cy Young Award.

    He also coached a club in Taiwan for two years (2018-19) before deciding to retire.

    He's enjoying being back in baseball where he's been "screwing up pitchers for a long time."

    But the job hasn't been good for his golf game.

    "Most of the time it's pretty good," Budner said of his golf game, "but during the baseball season I go from about a one-handicap in the winter time to about a five or six, because I'm rusty. I haven't even touched a club."

    Before heading out the door of the Shennecossett pro shop to start his round, Budner added: "It will be fun just to be on the course."

    Short putts

    • The Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands will feature an impressive field this week, with five of the top 10 players in the world competing, including No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and No. 2 Rory McIlroy. Harris English is the defending champion. Definitely worth making the trip to Cromwell.

    • The 120th Connecticut Amateur Championship is underway this week at the Ridgewood Country Club in Danbury. Bill Hermanson of Black Hall Club and Matt Fuller of Great Neck Country Club made the cut after two rounds of stroke play by surviving a playoff. Austin Cilley of Lake of Isles, Jantzen Vargas of Quinnatisset Country Club and Nick Hedden of Connecticut National Golf Club also advanced to match play.

    In Wednesday's round of 32 match play, Cilley, the No. 25 seed, advanced by beating No. 8 Chris Gatcomb of the EClub of Connecticut, 3-2, before losing to No. 9 Don Gallo of Mill River Country Club, 5 and 3, in an afternoon match.

    Vargas, the No. 15 seed, won his opening match, defeating No. 18 Alex Elia of Silver Spring CC, 2 and 1. Then he knocked off No. 2 Benjamin Day of New Haven CC, 1 up to advance to Thursday's quarterfinals

    Fuller, the No. 31 seed, put up a fight in his match, falling to Day, 1-up.

    Hedden, the No. 23 seed, also didn't survive, losing to No. 10 Jason Goshdigian of Goodwin Park Course, 3 and 2. Hermanson, the No. 28 seed, was eliminated by No. 5 Richard Dowling of Golf Performance Center, 4 and 3.

    The tournament will crown a champion on Friday.

    • Dave Jones of Mohegan Sun Golf Club continues to play well. He won the Siderowf Gross Division title at the Clinton Country Club One Day Tournament last week by firing a 2-under 70. His round included five birdies. He captured the 16th Senior Match Play Championship earlier this month.

    • Killingly graduate Fletcher Babcock made a good run at trying to earn a spot in the Travelers Championship field but fell short at Monday's qualifying event at Ellington Ridge CC. He shot a 2-under par 70 — three shots off the qualifying score — and finished with five birdies. He tied for 12th overall.

    • Earlier this year, Fox Hopyard in East Haddam became a private golf club after 22 years on the public side. The club's new list of amenities includes an indoor golf simulator, croquet and recently finished tennis courts.

    Upcoming events

    • Shennecossett will host the Connecticut Senior Open for the 25th straight year on July 11-12. Registration deadline is Monday.

    • Connecticut National Golf Club in Putnam will host a qualifier for the 122nd U.S. Amateur Championship on Wednesday.

    • Registration is open for the 96th Norwich Invitational, which will take place the weekend of July 15-17. It is the marquee local golf event of the season. Cost is $85 for members, $155 for non-members.

    • The 57th Connecticut Women's Amateur will be held July 6-7 at Tashua Knolls Golf Course in Trumbull.

    Please send golf results, hole-in-one information, etc., to g.keefe@theday.com

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