DARIEN >> Adam Rainaud (above) felt the pain in his back after his second shot in the second round of the 82nd Connecticut Open on Tuesday.
He ended up lying flat on his back on the second hole at Woodway Country Club. Rainaud even considered withdrawing. With a precious spot in the Travelers Championship next week, who would have faulted him to get healthy for that tournament instead?
“On the second hole (Tuesday), it got really bad,” Rainaud said. “I don’t want to keep pushing it, hurt it worse and not be able to play next week. I’m lucky it was really hot (weather-wise) this week.”
By the turn, Rainaud already trailed the leader, who happened to be his playing partner, Cody Paladino, by 10 shots. He kept playing and was within six when the second round ended.
Then Rainaud went out and tied the course record Wednesday, posting a 6-under-par 65, one of only five rounds under par among 41 golfers. The round was good enough for a five-shot victory, Rainaud’s first Connecticut Open championship.
“I’m 30 years old, played in a total of 15 state opens, I now live in Chester, I’ve worked at Black Hall (in Old Lyme) for six years,so this feels like my home state Open,” said Rainaud, a Massachusetts native. “I pulled a muscle I hope is what I did. It was hurting really bad. I had to take a few Advil. Since the second hole (Tuesday), I didn’t hit one shot that in my head that was over 70 percent (swing rotation).”
Rainaud pocketed $12,500 for the win. He made six birdies (1, 4, 6, 12, 13, 16) and no bogeys to to shoot 7-under 206 for 54 holes and become the first active member of the Connecticut Section PGA to win the Open since Jim St. Pierre in 2002 at New Haven CC.
“It’s more 27 holes. He was even (par) on the front (Tuesday). He played 11-under for 27 holes. That’s remarkable. Adam is an awesome player and I’m happy for him,” Paladino said.
Rainaud tied the course record set by Mike Ballo Jr. in 2014. Ballo, a member at Woodway CC, trailed Paladino by eight shots heading into the third round, but shot 68 to vault into that tie for second place with Corey Birch, who was playing in his first professional tournament.
Rainaud played six groups ahead of Paladino, who went bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie on holes 8-11 to stand at 6-under for the tournament, tied with Rainaud, who was through 15.
Then Paladino, the defending champion, made three consecutive bogeys on 12 through 14 to fall out of the mix. He shot a 77 to finish tied for fourth place with Anthony Casalino, the first-round leader, at 1-under 212.
“It doesn’t change my thinking on how I’m playing right now. I had a bad day at the wrong time,” Paladino said. “We don’t have enough hours in the day to talk about all the disappointment, quote-unquote, that I’ve had in my golf career. But I’ve also had a lot of thrills and a lot of success. Every time that I have a disappointment, I always come back twice as strong.”
Frank Bensel and Jeff Curl played together in the penultimate group, combining to have won five of the last 10 Connecticut Open titles. Neither could get anything going Wednesday, combining to shoot 7-over and tie for sixth place (213).
While Rainaud had already secured his spot in the Travelers Championship, a number of golfers had entered the tournament’s pre-qualifier which was held Wednesday at Ellington Ridge CC - an approximate 90-minute drive from Woodway CC.
Among those racing up to Ellington were Paladino, Curl, Shaun Powers (tie for eighth at the Open), Zach Zaback (T8), John Flaherty (T8), Greg Reilly (T15), Blake Morris (T17) and Jordan Gosler (T34). The only one to withdraw was Birch, who played in the final group with Paladino.
The top 40 and ties advanced to Monday’s final stage of qualifying, also at Ellington Ridge CC.
82nd CONNECTICUT OPEN
(at Woodway CC, Darien)
Adam Rainaud (Black Hall Club), 75-66-65-206; Mike Ballo Jr. (Woodway CC), 71-72-68-211; Corey Birch (Silver Spring VCC), 71-66-74-211; Cody Paladino (Wethersfield CC), 67-68-77-212; Anthony Casalino (Innis Arden GC), 66-75-71-212; Frank Bensel (Century CC), 72-67-74-213; Jeff Curl (Cedar Knob GC), 72-66-75-213; Shaun Powers (Fairview CC), 73-76-66-215; John Flaherty (TPC River Highlands), 71-73-71-215; Bobby Gage (Candlewood Valley CC), 74-70-71-215; Zach Zaback (TPC River Highlands), 76-66-73-215; Pete Ballo (Woodway CC), 72-69-74-215; Dan Balin (Burning Tree CC), 71-69-77-217; William Street (Whitney Farms GC), 68-71-78-217; Dave Giulietti (GC of Avon), 74-75-69-218; Greg Reilly (CC of Darien), 69-72-77-218; Jim Smith (CC of Waterbury), 75-74-70-219; Ryan Leahey (Glastonbury Hills CC), 73-74-72-219; Max Theodorakis (Ridgewood CC), 73-73-73-219; Blake Morris (CC of Waterbury), 75-71-73-219; Johnny Patridge (Course at Yale), 77-68-74-219; Geoff Gelderman (Tashua Knolls GC), 72-70-77-219.