On tough Rolling Hills course, Jessens win state Father-Son title
The way Ben Jessen and his dad Brian figure it, they were due.
By their estimate, the Jessens have played in the Connecticut State Golf Association’s annual Father & Son Championship 14 times. They finished third one year and had others when almost, but not all parts of their games came together. Or, years when their games meshed beautifully and somebody else’s meshed a little better.
But on Monday at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton, no other team was better.
The Jessens, who represent the Hop Meadow Club in Simsbury, shot four-under par on a tough, breezy, 6,700-yard Rolling Hills course, making six birdies against two just bogeys to record a 67 —the only score in the 60s.
That performance gave the Jessens a four-stroke victory over second-place finishers David and Evan Boggini of the Manchester Country Club, who shot even par.
“We love this format,” said Brian Jessen. “It’s tough, but it’s really fun.”
The Father & Son Championship is played in a modified, alternate-shot format. Both partners hit drives, choose one ball, and play alternately from there.
The Jessens, who have won Hop Meadow’s Father-Son tournament in pure alternate shot, were prepared. But a round last week at Rolling Hills helped, they said.
“We played a practice round Wednesday and that was important. But we both loved the layout. It fit our eye,” said Brian Jessen.
Just as important, said Ben Jessen, an insurance investment executive who played golf at Colgate, was “we were both reading the speed [of the course] about the same. We were on the same page. That helped. It was a day when everything came together.”
What also helped were two of Brian’s drives, on the par-three sixth hole and the par-four 14th, where he also sank a downhill-sidehill, 18-foot putt with a little help from Dave Szewczul and his son, Dave, who hit a putt just outside theirs on the same line first. That one ran well by the hole.
“We knew it was going to be fast, but after watching theirs, I just touched it,” said Brian. “It broke probably three feet to the right and just trickled down there.”
Ben's take: “Let's just say I’m glad it hit the hole,” he said.
Brian, 59, who hits his tee shots about 250 yards, or 30 yards shorter than Ben’s, kept the ball in play all day and made four of the the team’s six birdie putts. Overall contributions were pretty equal, though, they said.
“We were both hitting it very well,” said Brian, a pension consultant from Simsbury. “And these days if I can not stink, we’ll be pretty good. Ben’s a really good player.”
The Jessens birdied three holes on each side of the course. They started with the par-four, 372-yard second hole, followed with another birdie at the short par-four fifth, and then added one more at the long (199 yards) par-three, sixth hole.
On the back nine, birdies came at the short par-five, 10th hole and then at the par-four 14th and 17th holes. They bogeyed twice—on the eighth hole, where they failed to get up and down, and on the 11th, where they suffered their only three-putt of the day.
“The eighth was one of the only greens we missed all day,” said Brian. “My dad hit a great bunker shot and left me about 10 feet and I missed.”
The Bogginis, who made three birdies and three bogeys, finished their round first and enjoyed two hours of the clubhouse lead amid a consensus that even par would be the winning score. Rolling Hills’ greens, which have a tendency to break in a different direction than you think they might, and the length of this year’s set-up, made par a very good score.
John Sawka and his son Bradley, of Ellington Ridge Country Club, finished third at one-over par. Defending champions Jay and Ben Conroy shot 76 (five over) and were impressed with the Jessens’ score. “Honestly, I thought even par would be enough to win,” said Ben Conroy. “Four under is a great round today.”
The Jessens’ focus was actually on even par, but for one particular stretch of holes.
“That stretch beginning at six—six, seven, eight, nine ... even 10 and 11... is really tough,” said Ben Jessen. “We figured that if we played that stretch of holes even, we’d be in good shape.”
They made two birdies and two bogeys in that stretch on Monday, and won the 2019 Father Son going away.
So how do you celebrate a victory that comes after 14 attempts, which began when 30-year-old Ben Jessen was just 14?
“Tell mom,” said Ben.