NEW BRITAIN - Tim Welles came into Sundayâ€™s opening round of the Herald City Championship looking to defend his title.
Despite a tough start over his first four holes of the morning that saw him shoot a 4-over, the Newington native set himself up to do just that after a strong finish on the back nine at Stanley Golf Course.
Welles took a strategic approach and over his final nine holes, birdied once and made par on five of the last six. He capped off his round with a par putt from about five feet away on the 18th hole for a share of the lead at 77.
â€śIâ€™m feeling pretty good about it,â€ť Welles said of his opening round. â€śIt took a little while to get started, but once I got in the groove of things, I started playing well.â€ť
Joining him at the top of the leaderboard were Ted Kieltyka and John Autunno. Both also shot a 77, creating a three-way tie for the final round of the tournament set to take place next Sunday.
Kieltyka finished with four birdies, but was hurt by a five-over on the 5th hole, while Autunno hit par on all but two holes on the back nine of his round. A triple bogey on the 13th hole hurt him after the first-day standings.
They had a one-shot lead over last yearâ€™s runner-up John Bertola and defending club champion Nick Hudyma on a day where the wind became a factor and the course playing a little harder than in years past.
â€śI think the story of this round was the wind and the rough,â€ť said Hudyma, who came away with two birdies, including one on a short par-3 11. â€śOur maintenance staff has the course in great shape and itâ€™s healthy and they let the rough grow a little bit, so it was a little thick. Finding the fairway was a premium with the wind blowing. It was harder than what weâ€™re used to and it was a different type of wind. Some of the carries youâ€™re used to, it was a different club today. It wasnâ€™t carryable or youâ€™re hitting a little farther than what youâ€™re used to hitting. It was pretty interesting.â€ť
Even with the course playing more difficult than usual, the top 13 were separated by five strokes with seven within two of one another.
The key to Wellesâ€™ round was not to get overly aggressive, particularly on the courseâ€™s back nine, where a player can make up ground depending on how much of a risk he is willing to take.
â€śI like to play relatively conservative,â€ť Welles said. â€śI try to stay out of trouble as much as possible. It limits some of those higher scores on the scorecards. Itâ€™s nice playing it that way.â€ť
And with another week until the final round that will determine the Herald City Championship, allowing players to make some adjustments, the field is still wide open.
â€śItâ€™s what you do next Sunday that matters,â€ť Bertola said. â€śIâ€™m looking forward to it.â€ť
Brian Pollack and Justin Henry both shot a 79 for a share of sixth place and top of the B-Flight. Patrick Moore and Richard Reed share a tie in C-flight after an 84, while Richard Condo shot an 86 to lead D-flight.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com
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