Pastore leads Darien's Gaffney in final round of CT Open
For a long stretch during the second round of the 80th Connecticut Open Championship Tuesday, Greenwich resident David Pastore was, as he said, "in the zone."
"I was lining up the putts and they were going in," Pastore said. "I just wasn't really thinking about it."
One-putting eight greens in a row and registering four consecutive birdies at one point, Pastore shot a sizzling 5-under-par 65 at Rolling Hills Country Club Tuesday -- a performance that put him in prime position to add yet another championship to his ledger this summer.
The Greenwich High School and University of Virginia graduate is atop the leaderboard heading into Wednesday's third and final round at 4-under-par 136.
Adam Rainaud (Black Hall Club), Frank Bensel of Fairfield and Jason Caron from Stamford are each tied for second at 3-under-par 137, while Mike Ballo Jr. of Woodway Country Club and John Jackopsic (Gillette Ridge Golf Club) are only two shots off the pace after posting a 2-under 138 over 36 holes.
Pastore, who shot a 1-over-par 71 in Monday's opening round, started on No. 10 Tuesday and after two-putting for par, begin his surge.
"The putter was working today and that made the difference," said Pastore who has already won the Met MGA Ike Stroke Play Championship and Westchester Open so far this summer. "I hit the ball well yesterday (Monday) but didn't make anything. Today, I started off hitting the ball the same as yesterday, but made a lot of putts. I'll remember this round for a while."
Pastore sank birdie putts on 14-18 and finished his impressive round by holing a three-foot putt for a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole. Not one to pay much attention to the leaderboard, Pastore couldn't help noticing he was in the lead on Tuesday.
"I did know today because there are so many big leaderboards out there right in front of you," Pastore said with a smile. "Since it could be kind of distracting, I try not to look."
Playing with a brace on his right leg due to a bit of a sore knee, Pastore relishes going into the final round with former Connecticut Open champions Bensel and Caron right on his tail.
"It's going to be fun competing with two great players like that," said Pastore, who noted he took lessons from Bensel a few years ago. "I'm happy to be in contention."
Caron, who claimed the Connecticut Open title in 2012 at Wee Burn Country Club, had three birdies and 11 pars Tuesday.
"I just have to continue to play good, smart, golf," said Caron, who carded a 2-under 68 in the second round. "I don't think I'm going to shoot a 65 tomorrow, but you never know. There are some good players out there."
Bensel, the 2011 and 2009 Connecticut Open winner, was consistent Tuesday, registering 13 pars and four birdies.
"Today was not a great ball-striking round for me, but I made some good saves when I had to," Bensel said. "I played better today than I have recently, which is great. Hopefully, in the final round, I'll have some good swings."
Rainaud, shot the low round of the tournament thus far, carding a spectacular 6-under 64 Tuesday -- a score that tied the competitive course record at Rolling Hills set by Bensel in 2008. Jackopsic fired a 5-under 65 in his second round. Mike Ballo Jr., who was the leader after the first round with a 2-under 68, shot an even-par 70 Tuesday (two birdies, 14 pars).
"It was tough, I had to work hard today," said Ballo, a Stamford resident and St. John's graduate. "I wasn't hitting it poor, I just didn't hit it great and there were a few putts that didn't go in. This was a round where I would have shot a 75 or 76 two years ago, but I didn't due to the maturation process."
Ballo said he'll enter the final round with the same mind set he had going into the opening round.
"The main thing today was that I tried to force it a little bit," Ballo said. "Tomorrow (Wednesday) I'm going to take what the course gives me. I'm going to be playing among the last few groups with a chance to win and that's what the ultimate goal is."
Peter Ballo, Mike's younger brother, is just three shots behind (71-68--139). He was one of the busiest golfers around on Monday, also competing in a qualifier for the Met Open at Wee Burn, shooting a 4-under-68.
"I feel really good about my golf swing right now," Peter Ballo said. "My putting is also good and hopefully tomorrow I can get a few more to drop. I'm right there, which is what I wanted after two rounds."
Four-time Connecticut Open winner Kyle Gallo is at even-par 140, while Sam Bernstein (The Course at Yale), Jeffrey Evanier (Eclub of New Haven), Evan Grenus (TPC River Highlands) and Zach Zaback (TPC River Highlands) are each at 1-over 141. Brian Gaffney (Darien, 142), Max Theodorakis (Ridgewood Country Club, 143), Ryan Kalista (Tamarack Country Club, 144), Cory Muller (Country Club of Darien, 144), Anthony Casalino (Innis Arden, 145), Ken Green (Ridgewood Country Club, 145), Paul Pastore (Greenwich, 145), Greg Reilly (Country Club of Darien, 146) and Geoff Gelderman (Tashua Knolls Golf Club, 146) each made the cut on Tuesday.
"I had a couple of birdies on the back nine, which gave me a chance to play tomorrow," Reilly said. "My mindset was to move up the leaderboard. The course was playing tough, so I had to grind it out."