Hop Brook gearing up for championships

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — In spite of the weather seemingly always trying to rain on the parade lately, the opening rounds of the Hop Brook Golf Course championship tournaments are set to tee off next weekend.

“It seems like it has been raining every weekend since Memorial Day,” Hop Brook golf pro Bryan Nixon said. “I’m hoping we get around the same kind of numbers as last year. It’s tough to tell one year to the next, but a lot of it depends on the weather, which we have no control over.”

This year’s field rivals tournaments over the past five years that averaged 55 golfers. Nixon said there are about 45 golfers entered in the tournament heading into the final qualifying rounds this weekend.

“So far it’s looking pretty similar to years past,” he said.

The opening rounds are scheduled for July 31 and Aug. 1. The championships are set for the weekend of Aug. 7-8, unless the weather decides to alter the schedule.

There is always an air of excitement about this tournament played on the nine-hole course, where Naugatuck’s own 1931 U.S. Open champion Billy Burke played.

Last year’s field of 68 was one of the highest turnouts in recent years and provided one of the most exciting tournaments in the recent history.

Two new champions were crowned last year.

Tim Christensen knocked off seven-time champion Ray Martino by one hole in a 36-round shootout to win the men’s championship flight.

In the women’s championship, Dawn Bruenn came back from down four strokes on the front nine to beat five-time champion Stephanie Slekis in 19 holes.

“Unfortunately we do have several players who would normally participate that won’t be playing this year due to injuries,” Nixon said. “Ray Martino and Chris Sheedy have both had shoulder surgery. We will be missing a few guys but we also have some new players, and it should be a real competitive tournament.”

Nixon couldn’t say enough about the job that head groundskeeper Joe Malay and his crew have done keeping the course playable in spite of all the rain.

“As good as June was the month of July has been tough,” he said. “The course has been under a lot of stress with the heat followed by heavy rain. We had to shut down a few times with standing water on the course but we are hoping the tournament runs smoothly.”