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Costanza Leads by One after First Round of Ike at Darien

Mark Costanza

DARIEN, CONN. (August 10, 2020) - Low scores were rolling in today at the Country Club of Darien during the first round of the 65th Ike MGA Stroke Play Championship.Mark Costanza of Hamilton Farm holds the overnight lead after firing a 5-under 66 during the morning wave. A number of talented names are also atop the leaderboard, including Saptak Talwar of the Golf Performance Center and Darien’s own Ben Carpenter with matching scores of 4-under 67. Just last week, all three of these leaders advanced to match play in the 118th Met Amateur at Bethpage Black.

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Costanza’s low round included two bogeys but was highlighted by seven birdies. Teeing off on number 10, the recent New Jersey State Open champion started his round birdie-bogey-birdie. He kept it steady and had one more birdie on his front nine, making the turn at 1-under. On his back nine is where he really picked up steam, sinking a 30-foot putt on the par-4 sixth hole to start his birdie streak.

“That was the longest putt I made all day and that jumpstarted me a bit, that was big and I sort of felt like I stole one there,” said the 31-year-old.

He followed it up with another birdie on eight, after hitting a wedge to five feet and then making the putt. On number eight, a 330-yard par four, Constanza carded his seventh and final birdie of the day. “I didn’t really think I could get it to the green, I was just trying to get it up there close, but I definitely gave it a little extra and hit it really well, it ended up sneaking up on to the front edge of the green on the left. It was a difficult two-putt, but I was able to get it in in two from there.”

Talwar also played in the morning wave, finishing one shot behind Costanza. His scorecard included a trio of birdies on Nos. 7-9 and made the turn at 3-under. Steady play on the way in included one more birdie on the par-5 15th.

“I mapped out the greens pretty well, and I took some conservative lines off the tee, but I was able to roll the rock pretty well, so I made a few birdies out there,” Talwar said. “The rough is definitely up and you can get some bad lies out there, but the course is definitely in great shape, the greens are a little firm and I’m sure they’ll get firmer as the week goes on. I love the course, first time playing it, and a good experience.” Today was the first time both Talwar and Constanza played the course.

Playing late in the day, Carpenter used his home course knowledge to his advantage for a round that included six birdies of his own to finish at 4-under. Carpenter, one of three Darien members to make the cut, credited his mental game for his consistent play. “I was solid all around, hitting good wedge shots and putting well. I had a few tap-ins for birdie which is always nice. I was just thinking, ‘I’m out here to win, I’m not out here to make the cut,’ and I think that’s what really led me to a good round,” the 2019 MGA Carter Cup winner said. “The main thing I’ve learned in the past two months is you’ve got to stay patient. Birdies are going to come and bogeys are going to come, but you’ve got to stay patient and play your own game.”

Essex County’s Tom Collins sits just two shots off the lead after a 3-under 68. His two bogeys were balanced out by five birdies. He credited those birdies to making a putter switch for this week. “I got real comfortable early, started making some putts, and it’s all easier from there. So I was still hitting the ball well but the big difference was just making putts,” Collins said.

Seven players are in the mix at 2-under: William Delano of New Canaan, Tim Murphy of Stanwich, Mac Bredahl of Fairmount, Michael O’Connell of Arcola, Johnny Bush of Plainfield, and recent Met Amateur runner-up Luke Sample of Old Oaks. Four others came in under par at 1-under. 

A total of 44 players made the 18-hole cut at 3-over to advance to the final two rounds on Tuesday. The second round will begin at 7:30 a.m. The third and final round will begin in the early afternoon.

There is one more title up for grabs tomorrow, the Ike Team Championship, which goes to the two individuals from the same club with the lowest combined score for 54 holes. Carptenter and Bob Stelben (1-under 70) have the chance to add Darien to the list of winning clubs on the Ike Team trophy. Darien’s Brad Jordan also made the cut on the number at 3-over.

A true star of the day was the golf course. After last week’s storms tore through the area, superintendent Tim O’Neill and his team had the course in pristine condition to start of the championship. The Alfred Tull design, renovated and modernized in 2007 by Dr. Michael Hurdzan, will provide a true and fair challenge for the competitor’s in the 36-hole final stretch on Tuesday.

Live scoring will be available for Tuesday’s rounds on and the My MGA mobile app.

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