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Roan's athletic path leads to River Ridge

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published June 21. 2013 4:00AM

Casey Roan has a football injury to thank for his golf professional career.

If not for shattering his kneecap during high school football practice in the middle of his sophomore year, he probably would be making a living doing something else.

"It totally changed my life," said Roan, who grew up in Fort Myers, Fla. "I ended up in the profession that I love. I love being around people. … I probably never would have gotten into it like I am now. Looking back on it, it's probably a great thing that it happened."

After suffering the injury as a 16-year-old, he had to do something during his six-month recovery period, so he started playing golf on a regular basis with his father.

Roan never went back to playing football, leaving behind his days as a linebacker and fullback, and stayed on the golf path.

Now he is the head professional at River Ridge Golf Course in Griswold. Prior to starting his new job, he was an assistant pro at Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton for the last eight years. He moved to Connecticut in 1998, coming north to join good friend, Todd Goodhue, who took over as the pro at Shennecossett.

He's happy at his new golf home and doesn't mind making the drive from his Gales Ferry home. He's grateful that course owners, Manny and Pam Soares, hired him. He started on March 1.

"This is perfect," Roan said. "This is exactly what I was looking for. We have members and daily fees, kind of like at Shennecossett. That's probably one of the reasons why they hired me, because of my experience working at Shennecossett was pretty similar."

"It's been great."

River Ridge's staff has undergone a makeover. Kim Dietel, who formerly worked at Madison Country Club and Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire, is the new superintendent. Roan credits Dietel for the course being in great shape despite the rainy weather.

"It's been a good relationship," Roan said. "We get along well. All the members say the course is better than they've ever seen it. The golf staff is trying to be a little more friendly and outgoing and be more inviting for people when they come here to play."

Roan is enjoying getting to know the membership. He's considering making a few changes, including adding more tournaments for members and for the public. He's working on improving training for course rangers and starters.

"I just want to make sure the overall operation is run better than it has been in the past," Roan said.

While golf is now his passion, Roan still is an avid football fan.

"Football is still my love," Roan said. "I love watching the sport. I would still play today if I could. Obviously, I'm too old for it."

Short putts

• When Roan heard that his Shennecossett course record was recently broken, he wasn't surprised that Blake Morris accomplished the feat. Morris shot a 7-under 64, one stroke better than Roan's best.

He played with Morris, a junior at Ole Miss who plays out of Country Club of Waterbury, for two rounds at last year's Connecticut Open at Wee Burn Country Club in Darien.

"He was very impressive," Roan said. "He hits it a long way and has a great short game, and he was a very good putter. … It didn't really surprise me."

• Mother Nature must not be a golf fan.

Local golf courses have experienced rough winter and spring seasons. Lately, it's been a case of too much rain.

Eric Morrison, the superintendent at Shennecossett, talked about the challenges that the weather poses on Tuesday. It rained later that day.

"On the shore, we're usually three weeks behind in-land courses," Morrison said. "You can't control Mother Nature."

Tim Sisk, who works in the pro shop, is optimistic better weather days are ahead.

"We're hoping for a banner summer season after a miserable spring and winter," Sisk said.

• Earlier this month, Stonington Country Club assistant pro Gabe Carr-Harris emailed a report about his club's annual stroke play event. Sixteen-year-old Sam Ognisty emerged as champion in the 18-player field.

Ognisty beat current club champion Michael Hawley, the defending stroke play champion, by one stroke.

"With a smile stretched all the way across his face, he came down the hill back to the clubhouse with a 76 on his scorecard…," Carr-Harris wrote. "Sam played really well, and has been doing so for some time. He has really made some big strides in the last 16-24 months with his game.

"… He is a great ball striker, and this was a nice validation on his part for all the hard work he has put into the game. I personally give a lot of credit to the parents."

Carr-Harris added the Ognisty family - brother, Jack, and father, Tim, and mother, Pam - regularly plays golf together.

• Casey O'Ryan used a pitching wedge to record a hole-in-one on the 13th hole at Birch Plains Golf Course. Brian Kennedy witnessed the feat.

Stephen Kubiak of New London also had an ace this spring, using a nine iron on the 12th hole at Shennecossett. It was the third of his playing career and first since 1995.

• Readers of New England Golf Monthly recently voted Derek Hooper, Troon Golf Academy at Lake of Isles' director of instruction, the No. 1 instructor. Hooper, who has been at Lake of Isles since 2005, specializes in personal training programs.

"I am honored to be named the top golf instructor in the New England region," Hooper said in a released statement. "Teaching is my passion and I am constantly challenging myself to become a better teacher and communicator through education programs.

"There is no greater reward as a teacher then to see my students continue to improve and for some to compete at a high level."

Upcoming events

• Registration is open for the 87th Norwich Invitational, which runs July 19-July 21. Interested golfers must stop by the pro shop in person to sign up. Pro shop hours are 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Cost is $80 for members, $125 for non-members. For more information, call (860) 889-6973.

• The Elmridge Golf Course Senior Club Championship tournament is underway. Finals will tee off on Sunday. The men's club championship will hold its 36-hole qualifying rounds on July 6-7 and July 13-14.

Gavin Keefe covers golf for The Day.

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