Golfers tee off at Hop Brook

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Mild winter helps golf course get early start to the year

Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

David Davio, 82, of Middlebury, watches his tee shot March 11 at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck. The course opened the first weekend of March, the earliest opening in recent memory. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — For some outdoor lovers, the first sign that spring is on its way may be a robin perched on a branch with the last remnants of snow melting away in the background. For the avid sports enthusiast, the first sign of spring may look more like golfers lining up for tee shots on their favorite local courses.

Signs of spring came early in the borough this year. Hop Brook Golf Course opened for the season the first weekend of March — the earliest opening in recent memory — as temperatures crept into the mid-60s earlier this month, making the thought of snow a thing of the past around these parts.

“We have golfers who have been members for 40 and 50 years and this is the earliest opening they can remember,” said Hop Brook golf pro Bryan Nixon, who is entering his fourth season at the helm.

Nixon said Joe Malay and Jim Braziel, members of the grounds crew at Hop Brook, did a great job to get the course up and running.

The mild winter helped, too.

“Over the past few years we’ve had pretty significant snow storms in March that usually pushed us back into the month of April,” Malay said.

Hop Brook opened under bright sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 60s.

“We were busy and had some strong turnouts,” Nixon said. “Sunday (March 8) and Monday (March 9) we had back-to-back 100 golfer days. The leagues won’t start until April, so it gives the public a couple of weeks to play without trying to work around the league schedules.”

Steve Aviles, left, and his son, Josh, are ready for a round of golf March 11 at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck. The course opened the first weekend of March, the earliest opening in recent memory. –KEN MORSE

Malay and Braziel continue to groom the nine-hole course back into shape. Hop Brook is open seven days a week starting at 8 a.m.

Nixon, along with his team of Tim Folger, Fran San Angelo, Sammy Molnar and John Sevivas, are attending to the golfers welcoming back the spring season.

Sevivas is new to the course this year, Nixon said. A longtime player and former Naugatuck High golfer, Sevivas will work with youth to teach them the game, Nixon said.

The course will also offer free clinics for women the first weeks of May, June, July and August, as well as a free introduction to golf program for youth ages 7 to 17 on April 13, April 20 and April 27 from 5 to 6 p.m. There is a limit of one class per student. For information, call Hop Brook at 203-720-7066.

“Golf is the kind of game that can be enjoyed by everyone,” Nixon said. “No experience or equipment is needed for these introduction classes.”