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Stonington Country Club turns 25 ... and continues to thrive

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published September 10. 2013 4:00AM

Stonington Country Club celebrated a special occasion on Sunday.

Members toasted the private club's 25th anniversary during their annual Awards Night.

Current club president Thomas Flaherty has been along for nearly the entire ride. A member since about 1991, he has witnessed the club's incredible growth and development into a true gem.

Flaherty, along with longtime general manager Linda Drake and member Bryan Shepherd recently talked about the club's past, present and future. They are part of a committed and passionate membership.

As far as they're concerned, no club in the area offers more than Stonington.

"We are unique," Flaherty said of the club. "We are unique in our family memberships. We are unique in our no starting times. We're unique in the quality of the golf course. So we're very proud of that.

"We stand out as being different from other private clubs in the area."

If not for the vision of founders Ian Camfield and Anthony Halsey, Stonington would likely not exist today. They were two of 10 founding members.

Both men saw the need for another private course in the area. They found a prime piece of land off Taugwonk Road in Stonington and leased 155 acres from the Coast Guard Foundation.

Stonington Country Club was incorporated in July 1988. Ground was finally broken in 1991. A year later, nine holes opened. It took until 1997 to complete the back nine. That first full year the club had 233 family memberships.

Over the years, the club has continued to grow and improve. The clubhouse was expanded in 2001. Drainage work was done. All was paid for by the club's generous membership.

Members are extremely proud of the fact that Stonington was basically built from their own wallets and sweat equity. The club has no outside debt.

"It just kept building," Flaherty said. "We always like to say that the club was literally built on the backs of its members either from their own back pockets or physically. Members were literally out there on their hands and knees picking up rocks the first couple of years from the fairways because it was new ground, so there was a lot of physical effort from our membership."

The club has weathered tough times with some creative funding. When short on money, the club sold naming rights to each hole for $15,000.

"In the early 90s, during the boom of golf, people were building and buying and borrowing," Shepherd said. "It was an amazing amount of vision to do it the way this club did it. The foundation is solid."

What exists today is a top-notch golf course, a beautiful clubhouse and a warm and friendly family atmosphere.

Now dedicated people like Flaherty, Shepherd and Drake want to make sure the club continues to thrive.

Club leaders are looking to get the word out about Stonington in an effort to try to increase membership.

It shouldn't be a hard sell.

"We're under the radar," Flaherty said. "It's time that we get ourselves up to broadcasting our values and our objectives."

Short putts

• For the third time in four years, Black Hall Club assistant pro Adam Rainaud captured the Connecticut PGA Assistant Championship on Sept. 3.

Playing on his home course, Rainaud, 27, fired a record-tying final round total of 65 and finished at 9-under 133 overall. He started his final round with a 5-under 30 on the front nine.

He won by an impressive eight strokes and qualified for the National Car Rental 37th PGA Assistant Championship starting on Oct. 31 at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

His previous wins came in 2010 and 2011.

• Bill Hermanson of Black Hall and Dave Szewczul of Tunxis Plantation tied for seventh at the CSGA's 73rd Four-Ball Championship on Thursday at The Course at Yale. They combined for a 2-under 68.

Cody Paladino of Wethersfield Country Club and Kevin Josephson of Personal Golf Network took first with a 7-under 63.

Hermanson also competed in the CSGA'S 8th Tournament of Champions on Wednesday at Bulls Bridge Golf Club in South Kent. He finished second in the Siderowf Division with an even par 74. Szewczul was first with a 2-under 70.

In the Tettelbach Division, Paladino was the winner with a 2-under 70. Kurt Battey of Fox Hopyard shot a 76 to tie for ninth while Tom Cutone of Fox Hopyard and Michael Hawley of Stonington Country Club tied for 13th at 78.

• The Black Hall team of Rainaud and Scott Farrell tied for seventh at the Mohegan Sun PGA Pro-Am Championship on Monday at the Country Club of Farmington. They shot a 4-under 67. Dave Dell and Dave Smith of Springfield Country Club won the event with an 8-under 63.

• Four aces were recently recorded at Cedar Ridge Golf Course in East Lyme.

Tim Sargent used a six iron to score a hole-in-one on the 150-yard, eighth hole, on Aug. 24. The other three aces came on the fourth hole: Linda MacNeill on Aug. 26, MaryJane Pasternak on Aug. 30 and Mark Sullivan on Sept. 4.

Upcoming events

• The Norwich-Shenny Challenge will take place at Norwich Golf Course on Saturday.

• Mohegan Sun Country Club at Pautipaug will host the Connecticut PGA Championship. The three day, 54-hole event runs Sept. 23-25.

• Teams from Elmridge and Winnapaug Golf Course in Westerly will compete in the annual Barney Holliday Memorial Cup on Sept. 29. Elmridge will host the competition that features 16-man teams.

Gavin Keefe covers local golf for The Day.

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