Country Club of Darien to host Connecticut Open for first time

DARIEN — In the past 22 years, 12 of the Connecticut Open championships have been held at Fairfield County golf courses.

The 87th edition of the Open returns to the southern part of the state as the Country Club of Darien hosts the championship beginning Monday.

“It’s a complete honor. It’s been on our radar for a number of years,” said Cory Muller, now in his ninth year as the head pro at CC of Darien. “We are hoping for firm and fast conditions. It’s not the longest course in the world. Our green complexes will be the biggest challenge out here. The four par-3s will either average at or above par.”

CC of Daren, which plays to a par 71, measures out at 6,822 yards from the back tees. Three of the par-3s measure longer than 190 yards from those tees while two of the par-5s could be played at 572 yards (15) and 612 yards (4).

The club hosted the Ike Championship last year and is scheduled to host the Connecticut Amateur in 2023.

This is the first time CC of Darien is hosting the Connecticut Open, joining the other two private courses in town: Wee Burn CC, which has hosted four times, the last coming in 2012; and Woodway CC, which also has hosted four times, the last in 2016.

“With (CC of) Darien we obviously jumped at the opportunity to have conversations with Corey and the leadership here,” said Mike Moraghan, the CSGA’s executive director.

Course superintendent JR LaPan has been at CC of Darien for less than a year. He came over from Winged Foot GC, where he was the head superintendent of the West Course in Mamaroneck, New York, site of the 2020 U.S. Open last September.

“The golf course really stands up to a good test in a really fair way,” said Muller, who qualified for the Open out of Madison CC.

It’s a typically strong field or the 54-hole event that runs Monday through Wednesday. That features plenty of former champions, including defending champion Max Theodorakis, who won on his home course, Ridgewood CC in Danbury, shortly after turning professional.

“It has been a grind for sure (first year as a pro) getting used to stuff. It’s a grind, but I enjoy it,” said Theodoraks, who tied for second at last month’s Massachusetts Open. “There is definitely a little added pressure. It’s all about the pressure you put in yourself at the end of the day, I didn’t have a good start to the tournament, but I came around.”

Among the other former champs in the yield are: Rasmey King (2019), Adam Rainaud (2016), Cody Paladino (2015), three-time winner Frank Bensel (2009, 2011 and 2014), Jeff Curl (2007 and 2013), Michael Gilmore (1993, 1997), James Becker (1975, 1976) and Kyle Gallo (1998, 2000, 2004 and 2010), who will be going for his record fifth Connecticut Open crown after placing fourth last year.

Also expected to contend include: Peter Ballo, who finished second last year and played in the PGA Championship in May; Alex Beach, also a PGA Championship participant; Ben James, who finished third in 2019 and will be playing at the University of Virginia beginning in the fall of 2022; Chris Fosdick, the reigning two-time Connecticut Amateur champion; and Blake Morris, who finished third last year.

The top 40 golfers and ties will make the cut into Wednesday’s final round of the 54-hole event.

U.S. Senior Women’s Open tickets

Tickets are still available to attend the third U.S. Senior Women’s Open being held at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield beginning Thursday.

The championship will be held Thursday through Sunday, July 29-Aug. 1. Digital tickets only are available through the United States Golf Association’s website, Tickets are $20, which includes complimentary parking.

There are no gallery ropes at the championship, so fans will be able to walk alongside the players. Those 18 and under can attend or free with a ticketed adult.

Among those competing are: Annika Sorenstam, Laura Davies, Amy Alcott, Laura Baugh, Joanne Carner, Juli Inkster, Michelle McGann, Hollis Stacy, Jan Stephenson and defending champion Helen Alfredsson.

Whaley to be inducted into CT Hall of Fame

Suzy Whaley, the first woman ever elected to serve as an officer and then as president of the PGA of America, will be inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame on Thursday at The Patterson Club in Fairfield.

A former Farmington resident, Whaley served as president from 2018-20. She was formerly the head pro at Blue Fox Run GC in Avon.

Whaley won the Connecticut Women’s Open three times. She played on the LPGA Tour twice, in 1990 and 1993. She also won the 2002 Connecticut PGA Championship, which came with an exemption into the 2003 Greater Hartford Open. Whaley was the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945.

The ceremony, which is invitation-only and begins at 7 p.m., was originally supposed to be held at Brooklawn CC with the U.S. Senior Women’s Open there. But Moragahan felt logistically, it wasn’t a possibility.

“After talking to the USGA, we realized there will still be play going on. They are conducting a major championship and the clubhouse is being used for multiple purposes,” Moraghan said. “We realized it didn’t make sense to try and do it there. There will still be players on the course in all likelihood at 630-7 p.m. So it made sense to find a great location close to Brooklawn so if some of the players want to come, they can.”; @nhrJoeMorelli