After a one-year hiatus, the Greenwich Men’s Town Golf Tournament returned to Griffith E. Harris Golf Course, much to the delight of the more-than 90 participants who tested their skills today at the popular par-71 course.
The tournament, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2019, but was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was back in full force, as golfers, who competed against each other two years ago, were happily back in action.
And today’s opening round of the 76th annual tournament certainly featured some impressive scores.
Greenwich High School graduates Michael Hickey and Ben Ropiak are tied atop the leaderboard in the event’s Townwide flight. Ropiak, a 2019 Greenwich graduate and Hickey, who graduated from GHS in 2020, each shot an even-par 71 in the first round. Three-time defending Townwide flight champion Jason Morilla is just two shots off the pace. Morilla, who won the tournament’s Townwide title in 2017, 2018 and 2019, carded a 2-over-par 73, as did two-time champion David Peng.
Ropiak, who played on Greenwich High’s championship boys golf teams from 2016-2019 and is a student at Georgetown University, was sparked by a string of birdies.
“It sounds crazy, but it was really an up-and-down round,” Ropiak said. “I hit a ball out of bounds, I had a double bogey and then I also had a remarkable stretch in the middle of the round, where I could do no wrong. I birdied five of nine holes – 4,5,6,10 and 12, so I was on cloud nine almost. Then I gave a few back and came back to reality, but I’m very happy. This is the best score I shot in almost a year, so I’m ecstatic.”
Competing in the town tournament at The Griff is familiar territory for Ropiak.
“My first town tournament was when I was a little 10-year-old, so this is my second decade playing. It’s really nice, to be back here, I didn’t get to play it in 2019 and obviously, last year I couldn’t play it.”
As for Sunday’s final round?
“I want to be a little more consistent, limit the mistakes and play within myself,” Ropiak said.
Hickey, who also played on Greenwich High’s golf team, is headed to Villanova in the fall. He began his opening round in solid fashion and was consistent throughout, holing key par putts.
“A par on 1 was a big one, since I was dealing with some nerves and my putting was good all day,” said Hickey, who works at Griffith E. Harris Golf Course. “I was able to get three or four-footers for par. The course was nice, it was beautiful. The greens were nice and the fairways were good.”
He is looking forward to teeing off with the leaders on Sunday.
“I’ve never been in this position, so I have to just control my nerves, which I know will be there,” Hickey said. “It will be a lot of fun.”
Morilla, who has an expansive collection of Town Tournament trophies, had a solid back nine, parring every hole.
“It was a pretty solid round, I hit the ball pretty decent,” Morilla said. “The course was in great shape, it got a little tricky on the back nine, I didn’t know there was rain in the forecast, but it held up a little bit and the weather was perfect weather for golf – I’ll it take it every day.”
The three-time defending Townwide champion was happy to see familiar faces at The Griff at another town tournament.
“A lot of friends are here and it’s nice to see them play well and contend and hopefully, I’ll be there at the end again,” Morilla said.
Peng has an impressive history in the town tournament. He’s consistently been in hunt for the title and claimed the winner’s trophy in 2015 and 2016. His round of 73 today featured two birdies a plenty of pars.
“It was a good day,” Peng said. “Overall, my short game is what hurt me, but I was happy with how I got off the tee. Everything else was good. It’s just these silly little mistakes that I made, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
Indeed, Peng knows what it takes handle the pressure and succeed in the tournament’s final round.
“It’s a long day and it feels a little bit different than the first round,” he said. “Hopefully, I get off the tee well tomorrow and clean up my short game.”
Tyler Sudell, a 2020 graduate of Greenwich High, is three strokes behind the leaders. Sudell shot a 3-over-par 74. William Newberry posted a 77 in the Townwide flight, while Colin Cassidy and John Zukauskas each carded a 78.
“I was just trying to save par,” Sudell said. “On six, I was in trouble, but punched out to the green from 10 or 12 feet and made par. Staying out of trouble – that’s really all it was for me today. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully, I can go low.”
TOWNWIDE A FLIGHT
Andrew McCauley is the leader of the Townwide A Flight after the opening round. McCauley carded a 79 and is ahead of John Byrne (80) by one shot. Paul D’Amico finished with an 81, while Graeme Fattedad and Mike Moran each shot an 84. Willem Venema is six shots behind with an 85.
“I putted well, all my four and five-foot putts, I made almost all of those,” McCauley said. “I got off the tee pretty well on some holes and I scrambled – I had a lot of scrambled pars.”
His round started in impressive fashion.
“I birdied the first hole out of the sand trap in the corner, that got me off to a good start,” McCauley said. “The course was in great condition, as good as I’ve ever seen it.”
Byrne shot one of his best rounds today.
“It’s a good score for me, I got lucky,” Byrne said. “I didn’t hit it out of bounds, if you keep it in play, you’ll be fine. Tomorrow, I’ll have the butterflies going, but I’ll once again, try not to lose the ball.”
Joe Nethercott and George Pusser are tied for the lead in the Senior flight, as they each shot a 75 in the first round. Both Nethercott and Pusser have been mainstays in the annual town tournament.
“Three birdies helped,” Pusser said. “The greens were great, you had to keep it in the fairway today. I made sure I took the right club to be able to do that and I think that gave me an opportunity to score well. A 75 gives me a chance for tomorrow.”
Pusser birdied the par-5 14th hole and the par-4 16th hole.
“Those were good holes to birdie,” he said. “In general, I played well.”
Mike Thornton shot a 78 and Matt Johnson, who had one of his best rounds, posted a 79. Brien Kelley had a round of 80, while John McShea shot an 81.
SENIOR A FLIGHT
Michael Ward leads the Senior A flight, following a round of 87. Andrew Yu shot a 94, while Trond Rokholt finished with a 95.
SUPER SENIOR FLIGHT
James Jagodzinski and Ken Strasnick each lead the group with a 76, followed by Dan Agro (79), Craig Lanzoni (80) and Charlie Weiss (81).
Michael Hickey 71; Ben Ropiak 71; Jason Morilla 73; David Peng 73; Tyler Sudell 74; William Newberry 77; Colin Cassidy 78; John Zukauskas 78; Nick Dagnino 79; Brendan O’Neil 81; Alberto Santulin 83; Chris Dunn 84; Sal Sabia Jr. 87; Jack Kelleher 88; Mark Kelley 90; Sean Dowling 90; Karim Hallaba 93;
Andrew McCauley 79; John Byrne 80; Paul D’Amico 81; Graeme Fattedad 84; Mike Moran 84; Willem Venema 85; Jason Herrmann 87; Yoshfumi Takahasi 88; Juan Ferrara 89; Josh Becker 89; John Martin 90; Carlos LA Rovere 90; Matt Fletcher 92; Anthony Gangi 92; Takeyoshi Sugimoto 94; Stephen Hohl 91; Robbie Pedicano 97; Andrew Herr 99; Eric Jozwiak 102; Michael Ballestrini 102; Jeff Butera 102
George Pusser 75; Joe Nethercott 75; Mike Thornton 78; Matt Johnson 79; Brien Kelley 80; John McShea 81; Bob Eskierski 82; Scott Gaulocher 82; Barrry Cohen 84; Robert Vaenerberg 84; Hal Rudy 84; Paul Sudell 85; Bob Klingel 86; Steve Gordon 86; Michael Marulllo 87; Jonathan Rosenthal 87; William Stanlonis 87; David Rabin 88; Manny Morillla 89; Randy Rabenhorst 90; Sergio Sachin 91; Edmund Marinucci 97; Frank Alfano 101;
Michael Ward 87; Andrew Yu 94; Trond Rokholt 95; Will Barnum 96; Patrick English 96; Dev Panigrahi 97; Robert Baun 98; Ivan Qi 99; Mark McKeefry 101; Sal Mutone 102; Carlo Lettich 104; Mark Kaicher 109;
James Jagodzinski 76; Ken Strasnick 76; Bud Pironti 76; Dan Agro 79; Craig Lanzoni 80; Ray Bakshi 81; Charlie Weiss 81; James Murphy 83; Bruce Willey 86; Paul Pacent 87; Sal Sabia Sr. 89; Mark Fox 92; Paul Applegarth 95; Andrew Dzamba 96; Charles Hulse 97; Charles Adams 98; Louis Cea 104;
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