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Golf, not Murray, has Lendl's full attention at the moment

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published July 16. 2013 4:00AM

Groton - Ivan Lendl's hectic schedule left him little time to prepare for the 31st Connecticut Senior Open.

Just over a week ago, Lendl was sitting courtside watching tennis history as his student, Andy Murray, became the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

"For the two weeks, it was crazy," Lendl said after finishing his opening round at Shennecossett Golf Course. "Everybody kept talking about Fred Perry and 77 years, so it was absolutely nuts. ... Andy's a great player, obviously. He's proving it."

Lendl, who won eight major tennis titles during his stellar career, has coached Murray for just 18 months. Last year he spent about 26 weeks working with his prized student.

Murray praised Lendl for his breakthrough victory, although Lendl declined to take credit for Murray's win.

"Maybe he would have won the same or more without me, maybe not," Lendl said. "We'll never know."

Murray set off a wild and emotional celebration at the All England Club when he finally put away top-seeded Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

Yet the stoic Lendl remained calm and took a few mental notes.

"I look at what needs to be done and what work I have in the future with him instead of getting caught up in the moment," Lendl said. "There's nothing I can do about it once he's on the court anyway. I can just dissect it the best I can and take mental notes what he should be doing so he gets better."

When Lendl returned home to Goshen early last week, he shifted his focus to the golf course. On Monday, he shook off the rust and battled the blazing heat, firing a 76 to just make the cut for today's final round.

"Not enough time for golf as you can see by the score," Lendl said. "Hopefully, tomorrow I can play better. I was very tired out there. I haven't played in a tournament in about 11 months.

"I don't care how much you practice, it's not easy."

Lendl and the rest of the highly-competitive field will be chasing Trumbull's Ralph Salito who shot an impressive 3-under 68. Salito, the 2007 Connecticut Senior Open champion, recently returned from playing in the Senior PGA Championship in Missouri.

Salito was one of four golfers to finish under par, joining amateur Kevin Foster (2-under 69), Tony Kelley and Tom Sullivan, both at 1-under 70.

Dave Jones of Norwich, Mark Toscano of Westerly and Bill Hermanson of East Lyme are among a long list of contenders. Jones and Toscano, a former Shennecossett member, both stand in a nine-way tie for fifth at even par 71.

Jones finished strong, converting a short birdie putt on 18. Other highlights for Jones include hitting a pitching wedge to within seven feet on No. 12 for his first birdie of the day and saving par on No. 14 after misfiring long and left off the tee.

"I was really steady," said Jones, who grew up playing at Shennecossett. "On the front nine, I played great. I could have easily shot 2-under. ... It was hot, but it was breezy enough to cool it down a little bit and just enough to keep you thinking out there. The course is playing fantastic."

Hermanson also is within striking distance of the frontrunners after shooting 1-over 72 despite a few mistake-prone holes. He was happy with his putting, including sinking a 25-foot eagle putt on the final hole.

"I would have been thrilled with birdie," Hermanson said. "To get eagle is just a bonus."

Could it provide Hermanson some momentum heading into today's final round?

"It means I'm one stroke better," Hermanson said. "We'll see how important it was tomorrow."

Overall, 33 golfers are within five strokes of the lead. Defending champion James Becker shot a 76, as did Tony Susi of Gales Ferry. Sean Grimsey (75) of Waterford and Richard Wilczewski (74) of Old Lyme also made the cut.

Jones is hoping to better his second day performance from last year when he won low amateur honors and took fourth overall in his Connecticut Senior Open debut.

"This is a place where I came very close last year," Jones said. "I was three out of the lead last year. I just have to knock a few more (strokes) off. You know you have to shoot under par to win."

g.keefe@theday.com

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