FRENCH LICK, Ind. – It has been 11 years since Connecticut posted a top-10 finish in the USGA Men’s State Team Championship, but that long drought could end this year.
Anchored by recent University of Virginia graduate David Pastore, 22, of Greenwich, and fellow 2014 college graduate Peter Ballo (Sacred Heart), 23, of Stamford, Connecticut has positioned itself to make a run for the championship through 36 holes on the Pete Dye Course at the French Lick Resort.
Connecticut’s previous best finish was sixth in 2003, thanks to the performance of 1995 U.S Mid-Amateur champion Jerry Courville Jr. The team also tied for eighth in the inaugural Men’s State Team in 1995 and shared seventh in 1999.
Pastore added an even-par 72 on Wednesday to his 2-under 70 from Tuesday’s opening round to pace Connecticut to a 54-hole total of 2-over 290, good enough for a share of sixth. Each team of three golfers counts two scores for its total in the 54-hole competition. Ballo, who holed out a wedge from 64 yards for eagle on the par-5 18th hole, added a 73, while Kevin Josephson, 24, of New Britain, shot a non-counting 78.
Ballo, a 2013 U.S. Amateur qualifier, was the 2014 Northeast Conference Player of the Year, and Josephson was the runner-up at this year’s Connecticut Amateur.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Pastore is performing well. He’s enjoyed a remarkable summer that includes victories at the Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur, the MGA’s Ike Championship and a career-low 65 at the Connecticut Open that helped him finish third, earning him low-amateur honors. He also won the Westchester (N.Y.) County Open. While he doesn’t compete in many Connecticut State Golf Association events – MGA events don’t count – he did earn enough points to make the team. Qualifying for this year’s U.S. Amateur Public Links in Newton, Kan., also added to his point total.
At Virginia, Pastore’s lone collegiate win came this past spring in Texas, where he edged teammate and 2014 U.S. Amateur semifinalist Denny McCarthy in a playoff.
I think [Pastore] is one of the top players in the country, said Connecticut captain Mike Moraghan, the executive director for the CSGA who was the head men’s golf coach at Virginia for 15 years (1989-2004). He earned his spot. But he clearly is one of the top players.
Pastore is using this week’s championship as a tuneup for Stage I of Web.com Tour Q-School next week in Nebraska. Earlier this month, he advanced out of pre-qualifying in California, and he plans to turn professional in November.
But he would like to help bring back the Men’s State Team trophy to the Constitution State.
They’re a good group. They’re real strong competitors and mature players, said Moraghan. They make good decisions and they hit the ball great. I can’t ask much more than that.
Harvey Still On Mid-Amateur Victory High
By the time Scott Harvey reached his car following the prize ceremony at last month’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., there were 407 text messages on his phone. His voicemail had reached its capacity and he couldn’t keep up with the well-wishers. While Harvey cherished all the attention for his long-awaited USGA championship, the constant goodwill took a mental toll. Just the golf itself – two stroke-play qualifying rounds and six matches, including the 36-hole final – left him physically exhausted.
And then he had to prepare for this week’s Men’s State Team Championship.
I need a break, said Harvey, 36, of Greensboro, N.C., who is representing the Tar Heel State with teammates Bo Andrews and Matt Crenshaw. I know what I am capable of, but I also know my body limitations. I kind of surpassed those. When you give it everything you have – mentally and emotionally – it knocks it out of you. You need time to decompress and I haven’t had that break.
Two triple bogeys in Tuesday’s opening round led to a disappointing 5-over 77. He rebounded on Wednesday with an even-par 72, and coupled with Andrews’ 70, North Carolina improved nine strokes from the first round to move into a tie for 11th place.
I played well yesterday, I just had those two triples, said Harvey. That will definitely add up quick.
Harvey is looking forward to the rest of the fall as a time to get away from competitive golf and reacquaint himself with his wife, Kim, and 5-year-old son, Cameron, both of whom surprised him by showing up on Sept. 11 for the 36-hole final against Brad Nurski, a match he won, 6 and 5.
His next scheduled competition is the Jones Cup Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga.
Of course, he will likely receive his 2015 Masters invitation sometime in December, and the caddie offers have been flying in. Harvey said he has received an estimated 100 offers, but he’s sticking with good friend Rocky Manning, who caddied for him at the Mid-Amateur.
I’ve had some interesting offers, said Harvey. And they haven’t been like, ‘Hey, I’ll caddie.’ I’ve had some incentives, but I’m not even entertaining that. Officially, I don’t get the invitation until Christmas, so I’m not thinking about it.
Coaching Break For Brescher III
Eddie Brescher III always envisioned himself as a golf coach and now he is fulfilling that dream. Brescher, 29, is currently in his second season as an assistant at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Prior to that, he served two seasons as the head men’s and women’s coach at Division III Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., after one year as a graduate assistant at Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, where he played for the school’s golf team. The Ponchatoula, La., native spent an additional year at the school to earn his Master’s degree and as a graduate assistant, he assisted with recruiting and helped organized team practices and workouts.
Brescher also spent two years as a professional, playing on various mini-tours before regaining his amateur status three years ago.
I absolutely love coaching, said Brescher, who carded a 4-over 76 on Wednesday for Mississippi after opening with a 70. I was fortunate enough to get my Master’s degree working for my [college] coach and being his assistant when I was at school.
Prior to landing the Millsaps job, he was an assistant professional at Beau Chene Country Club in Mandeville, La. At Millsaps, he guided the men’s team to a No. 37 national ranking, the best in school history.
At Southern Mississippi, men’s coach Jerry Weeks has charged Brescher with overseeing recruiting, which means a good portion of the summer is spent attending American Junior Golf Association events as well as the U.S. Junior Amateur. The Golden Eagles currently are No. 42 in the Golfstat rankings and 30th in Golfweek magazine’s ratings.
While Brescher and Southern Mississippi don’t always end up with the blue-chip players, he tries to sell recruits on the school’s facilities and solid program. Casey Fernandez is currently the No. 10 player in the nation.
In between recruiting and coaching, Brescher does squeeze in enough time for Mississippi Golf Association events. He was runner-up in the Player of the Year points race this year to teammate Alan Ellis.
On Friday, Brescher is scheduled to fly to Baton Rouge, La., for LSU’s tournament, the David Toms Invitational Oct. 4-5, which features host school LSU, South Alabama, Southern Mississippi and Brescher’s alma mater, Southeast Louisiana.
Weeks allowed Brescher a few days off to play in the Men’s State Team Championship, knowing it is a USGA championship with a strong field.
You make sure you clear your calendar for these [events], said Brescher. But I am fortunate [the USGA] scheduled these dates [for the Men’s State Team].
Odds And Ends
Brendan Sweeney, the director of golf media and player relations for the French Lick Resort, caddied for Jeff Knox, of Georgia, on Wednesday…The stroke average went down slightly for Round 2, moving from 76.87 to 76.62. Bryan Smith, of Vermont, posted the third 68 of the championship.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.