Hop Brook gearing up for championships

NAUGATUCK — There has been a flurry of activity lately on the links as the Hop Brook Golf Course prepares for the club championships.

“We are hoping to draw around the same number of players as the past few years,” Hop Brook golf pro Bryan Nixon said. “With the kind of excitement we’ve had the past two years, maybe we can draw a few more. We are hoping to increase our numbers for the ladies championship as well.”

Qualifying rounds started on July 16 and run through Sunday. First-round action is scheduled to start Aug. 4 with quarterfinal rounds on Aug. 5. The semifinals will be held on Aug. 12, and the 36-hole championship round will take place on Aug. 19.

The flights and schedules will be announced once qualification is complete. The men’s championship flight will be made up of the best 15 qualifying scores. The first flight will be the next 16 best scores, and the remainder will be placed in the second flight.

“The tournament is open to anyone,” Nixon said. “They don’t necessarily have to be a Naugatuck resident.”

The men’s championship drew 47 golfers last year and featured upsets, valiant comebacks and even a few sudden death matches.

Ray Martino won the championship for the fifth time in a come-from-behind victory over 2002 champion Todd Gronau, who was the runner-up in 2016 and 2017. Gronau held a two-stroke advantage heading into the final 18 holes before Martino stormed back to win the title. If he defends his title, Martino would tie the Hop Brook record of six championships by Tom Ambrose, which dates back to 1969, according to Nixon.

Last year, Mike Fox defeated Bob Stabile to win the first flight title. In the second flight championship, Mike Morely defeated Ken Teach.

Two women signed up for the last year’s women’s championship. Stephanie Slekis won her third title (2014, 2016, 2017) by defeating Carol Douty.