Casalino of Innis Arden the early leader at Connecticut Open
DARIEN — The new home he recently purchased for his family has garnered much of Anthony Casalino’s attention lately. Yet golf will certainly be at the forefront of Casalino’s mind when he tees off Tuesday in the second round of the Connecticut Open Championship.
Inclement weather prevented approximately half of the players from completing their opening round, but Casalino got his in during the morning and he finds himself atop the leaderboard.
An assistant PGA professional at Innis Arden Golf Club in Greenwich, Casalino shot a 5-under-par 66 in the opening round of the 82nd Connecticut Open at Woodway Country Club and is one shot ahead of defending champion Cody Paladino (Wethersfield Country Club).
“It feels good, it’s nice to get off to a good start,” said Casalino, who placed 12th overall in last year’s Connecticut Open at The Patterson Club in Fairfield. “I hit the ball well and was confident. I didn’t hit too many bad shots and made it easy on myself to make birdies. I hit a lot of shots close to the hole.”
Casalino’s impressive round featured six birdies, 11 pars and just one bogey. He sank birdie putts on the five par-4 holes (1st hole, 351 yards; 4th hole, 395; 6th 445; 11th, 352; 17th 356; 18th 381). He shot 6-under on par 4s and was even on par 5s.
The 36-year-old Cortland Manor, N.Y., resident won the 2014 Lincoln Met PGA Championship at Glen Oaks Club in 2014.
“I’ve played well the last two years and I’m not going to let being in the lead affect how I play,” Casalino said. “I’m not going to let how I played today affect me in the second round. My wife and I just bought a home, so golf hasn’t been on my mind too much, but I’ve still been able to play well.”
Paladino, who won last year’s Connecticut Open with a 7-under-par 206 over 54 holes, carded a 4-under par 67 Monday. He registered five birdies, 12 pars and only one bogey in the first round. After a bogey on his first hole (he teed off on No. 10), Paladino got into a groove.
“I birdied No. 11 and that settled me down a little bit,” Paladino said. “I had a great par save on 12 after that and it was smooth sailing after that, I didn’t miss many greens. Also, I happened to make a few putts too, which was great.”
The defending champion also birdied the 16th hole (par 4), second hole (par 4), No. 3 (par 3) and No. 8 (par 4).
“Going forward, I definitely have a lot of confidence going forward,” Paladino said. “I’m looking forward to going on the first tee tomorrow (Tuesday) and going from there. Being the defending champion is nice. On Wednesday, it may give me that little extra push when I need it.”
The course’s fast greens made it challenging, but Paladino flourished.
“There was a little moisture in the morning with the rain, but once that was gone, the greens became lightning fast,” he said. “It is a true championship-style course.”
William Street of Whitney Farms Golf Club is in third place after shooting a 3-under 68. He had six birdies and nine pars.
“My putting was strong all day except for a pair of 3-putts and I missed a 3-footer for par on No. 18,” Street said. “I loved the fairway setup. The ball was rolling an extra 40 yards in the fairway. It made the approach shots to green so much easier.”
Thunder and lightning resulted in the first delay from 3:10 p.m. to 4:26 p.m. The second delay suspended play for good on Monday at 6:38 p.m. The players who didn’t complete their first round will tee off at 8 a.m. on Tuesday where they left off on Monday. Their tee time for the second round will be pushed back 90 minutes.
Jay Crowley of Round Hill Club is 2-under par through 12 holes and John Roberts (Rockledge Country Club) is 1-under through 12. New Canaan native Greg Reilly (Country Club of Darien) is 1-under par through nine holes, while Stamford native Mike Ballo Jr. (Woodway Country Club) is 1-under after six.
Danny Balin of Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich shot an even-par 71, as did Jordan Gosler (Manchester Country Club), Corey Birch (Silver Spring Country Club) and Kyle Baehler (Willow Ridge Country Club).
Among some of the local players who completed their first round were Stamford native Pete Ballo (Woodway Country Club, 1-over 72), former Connecticut Open champion Jeff Curl (Cedar Knobb Golf Club, 1-over 72), Danbury resident Max Theodorakis (Ridgewood Country Club, 2-over 73), Greenwich native Paul Pastore (Middlesex eclub, 3-over 74), Nick Cook (Tashua Knolls, 3-over 74) and Brian Lamberti (Richter Park Golf Club, 3-over 74).
“It started well, but it became an up-and-down round,” Pete Ballo said. “I double bogeyed No. 9, but birdied 13, 14 and 15. “I’ve played well all year. It’s always very comfortable for me to play at Woodway.”