STAMFORD, Conn. -- For Stamford golfers, it really isn’t spring until golf courses open - and the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., kicks off.
Local courses have been opening in the past few weeks, while the four-day Masters Golf Tournament kicked off Thursday without the sport's superstar Tiger Woods.
On Friday, Tom Conlon, from Greenwich, and friend Matt Piro, from Stamford, were at the E. Brennan Municipal Golf Course in Stamford, eager to get in their third round of the season.
Both said the Masters are a big draw even without Woods, who is out due to back surgery.
“When you see Augusta, you definitely want to get out there,” Conlon said. “It’s such a big tournament – it definitely helps if Tiger is there - but being a golf fan, I am going to watch anyway."
Piro agreed. “It is a little bit different with him not in it, but at the same time it still the Masters,” he said. “So it is still going to draw the huge crowd and the attention it always does, but it does seem a little different without Tiger in it.”
Vance Levin, golf pro at the E. Brennan Golf Course, said part the Masters gets so much attention because it is the first of the four major tournaments. “It is such a long wait between majors, it’s the longest wait between majors and that’s why it gets such a big buildup,” Levin said.
The Masters is one of the four tournaments that make up the Grand Slam of golf, with U.S. Open in the third week of June, The Open Championship in the United Kingdom is in mid-July and the PGA Championship follow three or four weekends later in August.
The Brennan in Stamford opened a couple of weeks ago, and Levin said golfers couldn’t wait to hit the greens. “Guys were itching to get out and they came out in droves,” he said.
Paul Ferrone, owner of Downtown Golf, located at 125 Bedford St., said Tiger may be the sport’s superstar, but the Masters is unique.
“The course itself is such a draw. It is spectacular,” said Ferrone, who attended the Masters on Opening Day on Thursday.
He walked the course on Thursday, his first time at the tournament. Although Ferrone said knew the course well from watching on television, he was still struck by how hilly the course is.
Attending the Masters marked the end of an eventful week for Ferrone, who recorded his first hole in one in a tournament the previous Thursday with his fellow Metropolitan Golf Association professionals at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y.