May 25, 2021



Redemption and qualifiers for the 2021 Travelers Championship in June

By Bruce Berlet

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Yes, there truly can be justice in the world.

A year ago, Brian Keiser won the Connecticut PGA Championship, an achievement that would have normally earned him a cherished spot in the Travelers Championship. But the PGA Tour had suspended the local exemption once it lost three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic that reduced playing opportunities for its members.

Keiser, the head pro at Longmeadow (Mass.) Country Club, was the victim of the Tour’s decision after winning at Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in Bloomfield and ran a two-day member-member instead of playing in Connecticut’s premier sporting event against many of the best golfers in the world. But the exemption was returned this year for the low PGA of America member from the Connecticut Section PGA, and Keiser will finally get to head to TPC River Highlands in Cromwell on June 24-27 thanks to a two-stroke victory over William Street on Tuesday at wind-swept Wampanoag Country Club.

“In the great scheme of things, it’s small that I didn’t get the exemption last year, but this is pretty cool,” a smiling Keiser said after a hard-earned, 3-over-par 75 that gave him a 36-hole total of 1-under 143 and the $4,000 first prize in his first title defense. “I was fighting it all day and swinging too quick. I was out of sync, and when the winds blowing like it was (gusts to 25 mph), it’s tough to get back in sync.

“My rhythm and tempo were a lot better and most of my (approach) distances were on the number yesterday (in a 68). But when you’re trying to manufacture shots and you’re under the gun, it’s hard.”

Despite some trying times, Keiser became the first repeat winner since Kevin Giancola in 2010-11. He began the day with a four-stroke lead over two-time champion Fran Marrello (PGA Life Member) and offset an opening bogey with birdie putts of 6 and 3 feet on the fourth and seventh holes. But an errant drive at the difficult par-4 eighth, a tee shot into a bunker at the par-3 ninth and a three-putt led to his first three bogeys of the day that suddenly opened up the title chase.

Michael Jezierski of Raceway GC in Thompson, who began the day five strokes back, birdied the eighth and 11th holes to get to 1 under for the tournament and a stroke behind Keiser. But Jezierski then bogeyed three of the next four holes and parred Nos. 17 and 18 for 74 and a tie for third at 146 with Marrello (74).

Street, the pro at Whitney Farms GC in Monroe, made the biggest move of the day in the difficult conditions. After shooting even-par 36 on the front nine, he birdied the par-5 11th and 12th holes to get within two strokes of Keiser. But he could do no better than five pars and a bogey at the long par-3 13th hole to close with 71, the second-lowest round of the day to the 70 of Hartford Golf Club’s C.J. Konkowski, who finished fifth at 148.

Keiser started his latest victory in rather inauspicious fashion, as his first shot hit a tree and ricocheted out of bounds into the practice range and led to a double-bogey 6.

“It’s a little hard to focus for a while when something like that happens, but I knew I still had 35 more holes to play,” Keiser said.

Keiser quickly put the early misfortune aside as he birdied four of six holes through the middle of the front nine to turn in 2-under 34 and added four more birdies in a five-hole stretch starting at No. 11 in a back-nine 34 for a four-stroke lead over Marrello. It was only the second time in Keiser’s career that he had eight birdies in a round, which was three more than runner-up Marrello, and all of them came from 12 feet or less.

Marrello, 66, is a Connecticut Section PGA and Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame member who has won a record 25 Section individual championships and is a 16-time Player and Senior Player of the Year who was recently honored for competing in his 44th Julius Boros Challenge Cup Matches against the Connecticut State Golf Association. He two-putted the par-5 sixth hole for birdie to move within three of the lead but then bogeyed No. 7 while Keiser was making a birdie and never got closer than three the rest of the way. On the back nine, he had eight pars and a bogey at No. 18 for 74 that cost him a share of second with Street.

So how did Keiser celebrate? After several congratulations from his peers and photos with the trophy, Keiser headed back to Longmeadow to run the end of the weekly men’s night tournament on Tuesday.

“It’s called the ‘shadow tournament’ because the shadows are usually pretty long by the end,” Keiser said with one final smile.

Yes, some gritty play had produced some poetic justice and a rightful day to remember.

The first Connecticut PGA Championship was played at Wampanoag in 1929, and it’s the oldest and longest running professional golf tournament in Connecticut. Maurice Kearney shot 157 for a two-stroke victory over Peter Manning and Alex Simpson, and the set of golf clubs that Kearney used to win are on display in the Section office in South Glastonbury. The championship was also staged at Wampanoag in 1946, 1963, 1998, and 2008. The championship was sponsored by Club Car, Mohegan Sun, Jack Jolly and the PGA Tour and open to all PGA members in good standing regardless of PGA section affiliation and all Connecticut Section employed associates.

Keiser will be in a 156-man Travelers field that already includes early commitments from defending champion and No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 4 and reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, No. 7 Brooks Koepka, who tied for second in the PGA Championship on Sunday, No. 8 Patrick Reed, No. 18 Paul Casey, a frequent challenger in Cromwell who tied for fourth in the PGA, former No. 1 Jason Day, 2012 titlist Marc Leishman, former U.S. Open and Olympic titlist Justin Rose and Bubba Watson, who will try to tie World Golf Hall of Famer Billy Casper for most tournament wins (four).

After the event didn’t have fans last year because of the pandemic, 10,000 will be allowed from the pro-am on June 23 through the four rounds of the tournament. Only 38 people were around the 18th green as Johnson parred the final hole for a one-stroke victory over 2014 champion Kevin Streelman that ended a 16-month drought and extended his PGA Tour-best winning streak to 13 consecutive years.

Tickets for the tournament went on sale today at 10 AM, and all of them are digital. Tickets must be purchased and redeemed in advance because none will be available at the gate.

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Final Results

Par 36-36-72, 6,413 yards

 1   Brian Keiser        Longmeadow CC                     68-75–143 -1  $4,000.00

 2   William Street      Whitney Farms GC                  74-71–145 +1  $2,500.00

 T3  Michael Jezierski   Raceway GC                        73-73–146 +2  $1,875.00

 T3  Fran Marrello       PGA Life Member                   72-74–146 +2  $1,875.00

 5   C.J. Konkowski      Hartford GC                       78-70–148 +4  $1,500.00

 T6  Christopher Tallman Orchards GC                       76-73–149 +5  $1,125.00

 T6  Bob Mucha           Edgewood GC                       75-74–149 +5  $1,125.00

 8   Sean Sweitzer       Madison CC                        77-73–150 +6  $900.00

 T9  Joe Cordani         Hop Meadow CC                     73-78–151 +7  $750.00

 T9  Joe Mentz           Mohegan Sun GC                    74-77–151 +7  $750.00

 T11 E.J. Altobello      Springfield CC                    79-74–153 +9  $550.00

 T11 Alexander Bardani   The GC at Oxford Greens           76-77–153 +9  $550.00

 T11 Jason Gobleck       Golf Center at Lyman Orc          77-76–153 +9  $550.00

 T14 Marc Bayram         Timberlin GC                      78-76–154 +10 $400.00

 T14 Tom Halsted         Sharon CC                         78-76–154 +10 $400.00

 T14 Billy Downes        GreatHorse                        78-76–154 +10 $400.00

 17  Rick Fleury         The Ledges GC                     73-82–155 +11 $300.00

 T18 Jan Wivestad        Crestbrook Park GC                79-77–156 +12 $90.00

 T18 Bryan Truszkowski   Candlewood LC                     78-78–156 +12 $90.00

 T18 Mike Strong         TPC River Highlands               76-80–156 +12 $90.00

 T18 Matt Stein          GreatHorse                        75-81–156 +12 $90.00

 T18 Jordan Gosler       Manchester CC                     76-80–156 +12 $90.00

 T23 Eric Flood          The Farms CC                      79-78–157 +13

 T23 Dan Benedetti       Springfield CC                    79-78–157 +13

 T25 Adam D’Amario       Indian Hill CC                    76-82–158 +14

 T25 Mike Martin         Tashua Knolls GC                  75-83–158 +14

 T27 Mark Ingala         Bull’s Bridge GC                  83-76–159 +15

 T27 John Vitale         GolfTEC – West Hartford           81-78–159 +15

 T27 Jeff DelRosso       Prospect Golf                     79-80–159 +15

 30  Donny Kirkpatrick   Wampanoag CC                      79-81–160 +16

 T31 William Wallis      New Haven CC                      85-76–161 +17

 T31 Bart McCarthy       Oak Ridge GC                      74-87–161 +17

 T33 Bobby Powell        First Tee of CT                   81-81–162 +18

 T33 Ron Dellostritto    Fairways Golf Range and Pro Shop  82-80–162 +18

 T33 Robert Bigonette    H. Smith Richardson GC            81-81–162 +18

 T33 Jim Alexander       Great River GC                    80-82–162 +18

 T33 Zac Stennett        Twin Hills CC                     79-83–162 +18

 T38 Jason Loomis        Great River GC                    81-82–163 +19

 T38 Joseph Carlone      Green Woods CC                    80-83–163 +19

 T40 Kevin Mahaffy       Pequabuck GC                      85-79–164 +20

 T40 Milton Torres       Crestview                         82-82–164 +20

 T40 Nicholas Tamburini  The Ranch GC                      83-81–164 +20

 T40 Mike Gramelis       PGA Life Member                   81-83–164 +20

 T40 Pete Seaman         Watertown GC                      79-85–164 +20

 45  Tim Gavronski       Shuttle Meadow CC                 82-83–165 +21

 T46 Philip Krick        Mohegan Sun GC                    84-82–166 +22

 T46 Glen Walden         Beekman Golf Club                 78-88–166 +22

 T48 Jim Hanlon          The Farms CC                      87-80–167 +23

 T48 Ronnie Pfaefflin    Norfolk CC                        85-82–167 +23

 T50 Brian Huber         GC of Avon                        84-84–168 +24

 T50 Bryan Chalifoux     Pine Orchard Yacht & CC           84-84–168 +24

 T50 David Wright        Cold Spring CC                    79-89–168 +24

 T53 Glenn Carlson       Torrington CC                     87-82–169 +25

 T53 Nicholas Segaline   Wampanoag CC                      87-82–169 +25

 T53 Jim Bedus           PGA Life Member                   84-85–169 +25

 56  Dave Giacondino     Tradition GC -Wallingford         87-84–171 +27

 57  Ted Perez           East Mountain CC                  86-86–172 +28

 58  Dave Cook           Pomperaug GC                      85-88–173 +29

 59  Bryan Nixon         Hop Brook GC                      90-92–182 +38