By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — There are new champions at Hop Brook Golf Course.
In one of the largest championship tournament fields in recent years, Tim Christensen knocked off seven-time champion Ray Martino this month in the final of the men’s championship flight to win the title.
In the women’s tournament, Dawn Bruenn finally got by five-time champion Stephanie Slekis, who has held the crown for three years.
“I thought the tournament went off great,” Hop Brook golf pro Bryan Nixon said. “It was the biggest turnout we’ve had in years with 68 golfers competing, up from 47 last year.”
Tropical Storm Isaias shut down the course for three days, but it didn’t take long for the tournaments to get back up and running.
“Once again, (head groundskeeper) Joe Malay did an unbelievable job getting the course back up and ready, and we were able to complete the final rounds,” Nixon said.
Christensen beat Martino by one hole in the 36-hole championship flight. Christensen could not be reached for comment.
“Ray was up early on,” Nixon said. “But after the match he told me that Tim really played well on the second 18 and made some birdies, and that was the difference.”
It was an exciting battle for the women’s championship.
Bruenn trailed by four strokes on the front nine, but caught Slekis on the 18th hole and won the title on the 19th hole.
“Finally,” was the reply from Bruenn about the one-stroke victory. “I have been battling Stephanie for the last several years, and she is such a gracious competitor. We shared a long hug after that emotional match.”
After getting behind on the front nine, Bruenn said she said stayed with her game and clawed back into the match.
“I think it keeps me more focused playing from behind like that,” she said. “It was a great feeling to finally get it done.”
Brandon Sweet defeated Robert Stabile, 3-2, in the first flight championship match. In the third flight championship match, Charlie Fredericks defeated Paul Padilla, 3-2.
Nixon said he was encouraged to see two first-time participants, Nick Konecky and Alex Riberio, battle it out for the second flight championship. Konecky defeated Riberio by one hole.
“We had a lot of new younger players out there,” Nixon said. “That was nice to see as we are always looking to grow the tournament, and we did that this year.”