Jeff Curl of Ellington, Conn. whose 209 total included rounds of 67-67-75, birdied the first playoff hole to win the 79th Connecticut Open Championship at Torrington Country Club in Goshen, Conn. The 54-hole event was held July 29-31 on the 6,598 yard, par 72 course featuring the state’s top amateur and professional players.
With a three-shot lead at the start of the final day, it appeared that only a handful of players had a chance to catch Curl – however, Ben Conroy of Durham, Conn. had other plans. Beginning the day 10 strokes off the lead and starting a full 90 minutes ahead of the leaders, Conroy sent shockwaves through the course as he made the turn in 4 under before making birdies on Nos. 11, 12, 15 and 16 to grab the outright lead at 8 under.
“It was one of those days; the putts went in and everything went my way,” Conroy said. “When I saw the leaderboard on the 14th tee, I was one stroke back and at that point, I knew I was in it.”
Playing near-perfect golf most of the day, Conroy made a bogey on the final hole to finish the tournament with a 7-under 65, giving him the competitive course record at Torrington.
Curl made his final move on the back nine with birdies on Nos. 10, 12 and 14. That birdie barrage after another at No. 6 gave Curl a two-shot lead at 10 under standing on the 17th tee.
After missing the 17th green and making a bogey, Curl blocked his tee shot right on the 18th and was forced to pitch out. Hitting his approach shot to 30 feet, Curl only needed two putts for the victory. However, his first putt came up short and he missed the 5-footer to force a four-way playoff with Conroy, William Downes of Longmeadow, Mass. and Eric Steger of Rocky Hill, Conn.
“It just kept unraveling. All day, I felt like it was my tournament to win if I could hang in there long enough,” said Curl. “Coming off the 18th green, I can’t remember a time when I’ve been that down on myself.”
After Conroy and Steger lagged their putts to within a few feet on the first playoff hole, it was Curl’s time to shine. With just longer than 35 feet for birdie, he made the putt of the tournament. “I didn’t even see it go in,” said Curl. “Five feet out, I knew it was in and I just started running.”
Downes was the only one left who could keep the playoff alive, but his chip slid by, making Curl the 79th Connecticut Open Champion.
“This is awesome,” said Curl with tears in his eyes, “To win in 2007 meant a ton . . . but this one, considering the injuries and what I’ve been through, is incredible.”