Golfers begin quest for Hop Brook titles

Ray Martino putts on the first green during the Hop Brook Men’s Club Championship at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck last year. Martino defeated Scott Thomas, eight and seven, to win the championship for the third time in the past four years. Martino has won four Hop Brook Men’s Club Championship in all. –FILE PHOTO

Ray Martino putts on the first green during the Hop Brook Men’s Club Championship at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck last year. Martino defeated Scott Thomas, eight and seven, to win the championship for the third time in the past four years. Martino has won four Hop Brook Men’s Club Championship in all. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — Golfers are still scrambling to make the qualifying cut for the Hop Brook Golf Course championships.

Players have until Sunday afternoon to make the cut that brought 58 golfers to the final flights last year.

“It’s still a little too early to tell if this year’s participation is larger than last year,” Hop Brook golf pro Bob Clark said. “We won’t have the final numbers until after Sunday when I go through all the cards and set up the flight schedule.”

One thing is assured, there will be a new Men’s Club Champion. Four-time champion Ray Martino and last year’s runner-up Scott Thomas won’t be playing in this year’s event.

“Ray is with the Waterbury Country Club and Scott is battling an injury so the field is wide open for a new champion this year,” Clark said.

The Ladies division, which is in its fourth year, will have defending champion Nancy Clark back.

“She’s my mom so it won’t be hard to tell who I’m rooting for,” Bob Clark said. “But she is going to have some strong competition to defend her title.”

Last year’s runner-up and 2014 champion Stephanie Slekis will pose the biggest threat along with Linda Low, a semifinalist last year.

In 2014, Nick Tribanas became the youngest champion at 17 years old when he defeated 2002 winner Todd Gronau. Gronau leads the pack with a 73 through the early qualifying rounds, but could be challenged by another young player Mike Erickson, the former Woodland golfer who is now leading the links for Post University.

Along with the championships, Hop Brook has plans to run a Senior Golf Tournament and a Super Senior Tournament for golfers over 70 years old. Clark said the course is in great shape for the championships and tournaments.

“The condition of the course is amazing thanks to the outstanding job of our maintenance crew,” Clark said. “The weather has been exceptional with no delays but we could use some rain. If it wasn’t for the dedicated efforts of our maintenance crew I’m not sure the course would be in such good condition for this event.”