Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Curtis Congdon plays well in competitive return
Curtis Congdon was a standout golfer in high school, capturing the Western Mass. individual championship in 2001 while leading Monument Mountain to the team title.
But when Congdon, who also shot a 66 in the International Youth Classic at Wyantenuck Country Club that summer, headed off to James Madison University in Virginia, his priorities shifted away from the fairways and greens of Berkshire County where the Congdon family has been a dominant force for decades.
Though he played some tournament golf, mostly in charity events and the occasional best-ball tournament, Congdon put serious golf on hold as he focused first on earning his degree at JMU in 2005 and then on building a business career and starting a family.
It appears, however, that Congdon still has game. Earlier this week, the 33-year-old tied for third place with a 1-over par 73 in a qualifying tournament for the Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship to earn a berth in the main event in late June. There were 85 players in the field at Chantilly National Golf and Country Club in Centreville, Va.
"This was the first medal-play tournament for me since high school," said Congdon, the son of Wyantenuck member and three-time Stockbridge Golf Club champion Rich. "The last time I played medal-play tournament golf, I was focused on my own little world. My priorities now are my wife, my family and my clients."
Congdon and his wife, Jenn, have a 3 1/2-year-old son, Chase, and 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Keira and live in Clifton, Va. He is the senior vice president of wealth management for Lara, May and Associates in Falls Church, Va. With all going well, Congdon decided he now has time to play some competitive golf.
"I've spent the last 10 years building a life for myself and my family and I am closer to doing it, so I have some time now to pursue my own interests."
Still, it's not easy to return to competition and reap an immediate reward as Congdon remarkably did this week. Perhaps the discipline he has exhibited in building a life for his family paid off.
"When I last played [medal-play] tournament golf 15 years ago, I always teed it up trying to win, and that didn't usually work," Congdon said. "My goal now is to be fully present in every moment, to just focus on the task at hand. So far that was worked really well. If I get under par it doesn't scare me. The next shot is all that matters."
That approach certainly worked at Chantilly where he played his first nine — the back side — in 1-under 35 with one bogey and two birdies on the par-5 holes, hitting both greens in two. He had three bogeys and one birdie on his second nine to finish just two shots behind medalist Brandon Weaver.
Congdon's dad admitted in an email that he was surprised at the great round considering his son's focus on work and family. There was one other reason it may have been unexpected.
"I told him I shot an 85 the Saturday before, but I've always played better when there is something on the line," Curtis said. "I think he was happy and proud."
A bonus for Curtis is that dad will head south to serve as his caddie for the June 28-July 2 event at the Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech. Getting together on the golf course has always been special for father and son.
"I was stubborn, hard-headed and difficult at times growing up, but my dad and I really connected on the golf course," Curtis said.
When he caddied for his father, Curtis says, he was told "to keep my mouth shut and hand him the clubs."
It appears dad will practice what he preached those many years ago.
"My plan for caddying will be to carry his bag and stay out of the way," Rich said. "No coaching."
Curtis says he was also motivated by being part of golf's most successful family in Berkshire County golf.
If you combine the club championships won by Rich, uncles Andy Congdon and Rick Iemolini and grandfather Raymond Congdon at Stockbridge and Wyantenuck, it totals more than 40. Rich and Andy have also teamed up to win numerous best-ball titles, including the Wyantenuck Invitational five times.
This month's tournament will feature the same format as is followed at the Mass. Amateur — two rounds of medal-play qualifying with the top 32 players advancing to match play. The eventual champion will have to win five matches. But, as was the case this past week, Congdon's isn't looking past the first hole of the first day.
"I'm just going to focus on the moment," he said.
Earlier this week, the top professionals in the Northeast New York PGA Section challenged the 6,624-yard, par-71 layout at Taconic Golf club in the section's Stroke Play Championship.
New York pro Steve Berliner, as expected, walked away with the title but the other big winner was the golf course. The beautiful par-71 layout proved to be a first-rate test of golf and confirmed that it will provide a stern test for the state's best in next month's Massachusetts Golf Association State Amateur Championship (July 11-15).
None of the professionals were able to break par for 36 holes, with Berliner (72-71) winning at 1-over par. There was only one sub-par round recorded — an 68 by co-runner up John Neet — and three even-par rounds (Berliner, Ian Breen, Anders Mattson).
"Taconic showed well with the winning score being over par," said Taconic head professional Josh Hillman, who finished tied for second with Neet after shooting a pair of 73s.
Hillman was happy that the club was able to host the region's top pros in one of the section's major championships.
"It was really kind for the membership to open up the course for us, and my staff did a great job in running the tournament, which allowed me to have the chance to compete," Hillman said.
Next month's state amateur will mean that Taconic's members will be giving up the course for the better part of a week.
"The membership is really looking forward to having the Massachusetts Am," Hillman said. "Over the years, we have hosted many USGA, NCAA and MGA events and it is always nice to give back to golf. After all, we are all about golf here at Taconic and the members take pride in that."
To contact Richard Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413 281-2226.
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