HARTFORD, Conn. (August 29, 2017) – Kyle Bilodeau feels as if he has played well much of 2017 but doesn’t have much to show for it.
That changed Tuesday in the first round of the Connecticut PGA Championship at Keney Park Golf Course.
Bilodeau, the first-year assistant pro at Woodway Country Club in Darien, carded a bogey-free, 6-under-par 64 that set the course record and gave him a one-stroke lead over Billy Downes entering the final round on Wednesday.
Shaun Powers, who tied for fifth in his tournament debut last year, is third at 66, two ahead of two-time winner and defending champion Adam Rainaud. The only other players under par were Ian Marshall (Watertown G.C.), Scott Berliner (Highland Park G.C.-Queensbury, N.Y.) and Joe Mentz (Goodwin Park G.C.-Hartford), who are tied for fifth at 69.
“I’ve been hitting it well for several weeks but haven’t been able to put it together,” said Bilodeau, the Connecticut Section PGA Player of the Year in 2013. “My ball-striking continued to be good today, and I made a few putts.”
Five of Bilodeau’s six birdies came off putts of 10 feet or less. He added an unexpected sixth birdie at the par-5 14th hole, where his drive barely stayed inbounds. His 4-iron second shot through the trees left him an 8-iron to the green. That shot came up 25 feet short, but he made the putt for 4.
“As I walked off the green, I shook by head for two minutes,” Bilodeau said with a smile.
Bilodeau, 32, who worked the previous three years at Ellington Ridge Country Club, won the tournament in 2013 and captured the Spring Stroke Play Championship in 2013 and 2015 to earn spots in the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship.
“That was an experience,” said Bilodeau, who graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University. “It’s a different way of playing golf as far as nerves, the setup being as tough as they can make it and slight mistakes penalizing you 10 times more than in other tournaments. … Those guys are on a different planet, and there’s a reason they’re on the Tour.”
Tuesday was the continuation of a stellar season for Downes, the head pro at GREATHORSE in Hampden, Mass. He played in the Travelers Championship for the first time after winning the Stroke Play Championship; lost to former PGA Tour player John Elliott on the first playoff hole in the Connecticut Senior Open; and then qualified for the PGA of America’s Senior Club Professional Championship in Arizona on Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
Downes had six birdies, including four on the first seven holes, and one bogey, avoiding a second on the par-3 18th hole with a 10-foot putt after hitting his tee shot 50 feet from the cup.
“That left a good taste in my mouth,” Downes said with a smile.
A quick adjustment to the speed of the greens helped Downes’ cause.
“The greens were quicker than they looked starting out, but I kind of got the speed down after four or five holes,” Downes said. “I ended up putting really solid. I made some short putts for birdie, but I also made a few long ones (20 feet on No. 4 and 15 feet on No. 7).”
Powers, 48, the head pro at Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, spiced his round with a 130-yard wedge shot that found the cup for eagle 2 at No. 16.
“I played well all day, and the 2 kind of made up for some of the missed putts,” Powers said.
Powers also had four birdies and shot 4-under 31 on the back nine on a course that he said he really enjoys.
“The course really suits my eye,” Powers said. “They should have more courses like this that aren’t 7,600 yards long.”
Rainaud, 32, was the Connecticut Section PGA Player of the Year the last three years, winning 11 of the 15 major championships for which he was eligible while an assistant at the Black Hall Club in Old Lyme. Rainaud hasn’t won this year, but he’s still the points leader in the Metropolitan PGA Section Player of the Year race in his first year at famed Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Rainaud put himself in position to win again thanks to seven birdies, the most carded by anyone in the 72-player field. But he also had three bogeys and a double-bogey 6 at No. 9.
“It was pretty crazy,” Rainaud said. “I was 3 under through six holes and feeling good and then hit bad drives on 7 and 9 and made bogey and double bogey. I rebounded well with birdies on 10, 12 and 14 but missed short (par) putts on 15 and 17. But I made a 30-footer on 18 that made me feel a bit better going into tomorrow.”
Suzy Whaley (Suzy Whaley Golf), who scored an historic victory 15 years ago, was tied for eighth at 70 with Jordan Gosler (Manchester C.C.), Kevin Giancola (Golf Quest-Southington), Billy Street (Whitney Farms-Monroe), Kevin Ausserlechner (Fairview) and Brent Paladino (Connecticut State Golf Association). Whaley’s victory in 2002 was the first for a PGA of America female member and qualified her for the 2003 Greater Hartford Open, now Travelers Championship. She was the first female to qualify for a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Los Angeles Open, and she, Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie are the only females to play in a PGA Tour tournament.
Final round play begins Wednesday at 8 a.m., and the final group of Bilodeau, Downes and Powers tee off at 12:10 p.m. First prize is $5,000.
Spectators are welcome to attend and admission is free of charge. Special thanks to Championship sponsors Club Car, Grey Goose, Mohegan Sun, OMEGA, Par Bar, and the PGA TOUR, and Keney Park Golf Club staff and volunteers.
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First Round Results
1 Kyle Bilodeau Woodway CC 32-32–64 -6
2 Billy Downes GreatHorse 32-33–65 -5
3 Shaun Powers Fairview CC 35-31–66 -4
4 Adam Rainaud Winged Foot GC 35-33–68 -2
T5 Joe Mentz Goodwin Park GC 37-32–69 -1
T5 Ian Marshall Watertown GC 32-37–69 -1
T5 Scott Berliner Hiland Park GC 36-33–69 -1
T8 Jordan Gosler Manchester CC 35-35–70 E
T8 Kevin Giancola Golf Quest Family Sports Cntr 37-33–70 E
T8 Suzy Whaley Suzy Whaley 34-36–70 E
T8 William Street Whitney Farms GC 33-37–70 E
T8 Kevin Ausserlechner Fairview CC 34-36–70 E
T8 Brent Paladino Connecticut State Golf Association 38-32–70 E
T14 Scott Knights Glastonbury Hills CC 34-37–71 +1
T14 Fran Marrello Canaan CC 36-35–71 +1
T14 Frank Leja Crestview 36-35–71 +1
T14 Christopher Tallman Cold Spring CC 37-34–71 +1
T14 Marc Bayram Timberlin GC 34-37–71 +1
T14 Dave Cook Pomperaug GC 35-36–71 +1
T20 Stephen Oberstadt GC of Avon 37-35–72 +2
T20 James Giampaolo Hawk’s Landing CC 40-32–72 +2
T20 Jim St. Pierre Newtown CC 38-34–72 +2
T20 Paul Barnsley Race Brook CC 36-36–72 +2
T20 Casey Roan Shennecossett GC 38-34–72 +2
T20 Dan Benedetti Miacomet 38-34–72 +2
T20 Rick Fleury Elmcrest 38-34–72 +2
T20 Mike Martin Clubs To Go 38-34–72 +2
T28 Michel Painchaud Mohegan Sun GC 39-34–73 +3
T28 Anthony Hunter Springfield CC 38-35–73 +3
T28 Bob Mucha Edgewood GC 37-36–73 +3
T28 Patrick Aldrich Connecticut Section PGA 36-37–73 +3
T28 E.J. Altobello Tekoa CC 38-35–73 +3
T28 Kevin Shea Great Neck CC 37-36–73 +3
T28 Joe Cordani Hop Meadow CC 35-38–73 +3
T28 Bob Kay Tumble Brook CC – Green 37-36–73 +3
T36 Geno Giancola Timberlin GC 41-33–74 +4
T36 Brian Quilter Black Hall Club 40-34–74 +4
T36 Donny Kirkpatrick Wampanoag CC 38-36–74 +4
T36 Tony Kelley Wyckoff 38-36–74 +4
T36 Jeff DelRosso Prospect Golf 36-38–74 +4
T36 Bryan Truszkowski Candlewood LC 35-39–74 +4
T36 Tom Gleeton CC of Waterbury 41-33–74 +4
T43 Ron Dellostritto Wethersfield CC 39-36–75 +5
T43 Aaron Ungvarsky Hartford GC 37-38–75 +5
T43 Robert Clark Minnechaug GC 38-37–75 +5
T43 William Wallis New Haven CC 38-37–75 +5
T43 Jared Smith Green Woods CC 41-34–75 +5
T43 Jack McConachie North Ridge GC 39-36–75 +5
T49 Nicholas Segaline Wampanoag CC 38-38–76 +6
T49 Glen Walden Beekman Golf Club 40-36–76 +6
T49 Bob Affelder PGA Life Member 40-36–76 +6
T49 John Detmer Wethersfield CC 40-36–76 +6
T53 Mike Zaranek Crestview 38-39–77 +7
T53 Adam D’Amario Indian Hill CC 37-40–77 +7
T53 Kevin Mahaffy Pequabuck GC 38-39–77 +7
T56 Tim Quirk Longmeadow CC 41-37–78 +8
T56 Dave Dell Springfield CC 39-39–78 +8
T58 Bobby Powell First Tee of CT 37-42–79 +9
T58 Bobby Brown Tashua Knolls GC 42-37–79 +9
T60 Philip Krick Mohegan Sun GC 41-39–80 +10
T60 John Vitale GolfTEC – West Hartford 39-41–80 +10
T62 Peter Seaman Keney Park GC 42-39–81 +11
T62 Jantzen Vargas Lake of Isles 43-38–81 +11
T64 John Murphy Stanley GC 42-40–82 +12
T64 Douglas Holub Fairchild Wheeler – Red 40-42–82 +12
T64 Tim Gavronski Shuttle Meadow CC 42-40–82 +12
T67 Ronnie Pfaefflin Norfolk CC 39-44–83 +13
T67 Bob Sparks Fairview Farm GC 39-44–83 +13
T67 Mike Gramelis Golf Galaxy- Milford 39-44–83 +13
T70 Jim Hanlon The Farms CC 46-38–84 +14
T70 Mark Moriarty First Tee of CT 45-39–84 +14
NC Zac Stennett Tallwood CC