Some of our town's best athletes
It is presumptuous for anyone to select a lineup of the foremost homegrown athletes in Fairfield. There were, and are, too many outstanding men and women to consider, too many sports, and, far too many years of excellence. But since this is our community’s 375th anniversary, it seems appropriate to compile a list of the superlative sportsmen and women of Fairfield. Each member of this group grew up here and excelled in his or her specialty sport at the highest level.
James Blake Despite health obstacles—severe scoliosis in high school, a broken neck and vision-blurring shingles in 2004—Blake won 10 career titles and finished 2006 with a number-four ranking in the world. He helped the U.S. win the Davis Cup in 2007 by going 5-2 during singles-play. James excelled in tennis at Fairfield High and Harvard. James and Emily Blake live in Westport with their daughters Riley and Emma Rose.
Julius Boros Although he turned pro comparatively late, at age 30, Boros made up for lost time by winning three majors—U.S. Open (1952, 1963), PGA (1968)—and 15 tournaments overall on the PGA tour. He also captured the PGA Seniors title in 1971 and 1977. “Moose,” as he was known, was the leading money winner in 1952 and ’55, and Player of the Year in 1952 and ’63. He was elected to the PGA Hall of Fame in 1974 and the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1982.
Julie Chu She was a key member and assistant captain of no fewer than three silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic ice hockey teams (2002, ’10, ’14) as well as the 2006 squad that won the bronze. A three-time All-American at Harvard, Chu concluded her career in 2007 with an NCAA record for career points (284) and won women’s hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. She attended North Stratfield School and Fairfield Woods Middle School.
Heather Daly-Donofrio The petite 5-foot-1 Daly-Donofrio took up golf at age 15 and received lessons from her husband, Ray Howell, at Yale, where she graduated cum laude with a history degree. She won two tournaments on the LPGA tour, in 2001 and 2004, and earned $1,122,933 overall. She coached the Yale women’s golf team from 1997-2000 and served as an assistant coach through 2003. She is now the LPGA’s chief of tour operations and based in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Dave Graham He was selected by Philadelphia Eagles on the 13th round of the NFL draft and went on to appear in 83 games as an offensive tackle (1963-65, 1967-69). In high school, he was a two-time New Haven Register All-Stater (1954, ’55), and he possessed enough basketball prowess to be a starter on Ludlowe’s 1954-55 New England Championship team—the lone regional title won by a Fairfield school.
Ronald “J.J.” Henry III He has earned a whopping $14.2 million since joining the PGA tour in 2001, winning two events thus far, the Buick Open at Hartford in 2006 and the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2012. As an amateur, he captured three Connecticut State Amateur titles (1994, ’95, ’98) as well as the 1998 New England Amateur.
Fran Lynch As a junior, Lynch was a starting halfback on Ludlowe’s undefeated 1961 football team (9-0) that won the Waskowitz Trophy emblematic of state supremacy. After a fine playing career at Hofstra, he was selected by Denver on the fifth round of the 1967 American Football League draft and spent nine seasons with the club (1967-76).
Charles Nagy He was the dominant starting pitcher on powerful Cleveland Indian clubs that won two American League pennants (1995, ’97) and five straight Central Division titles (1995-99), averaging 16 wins per season during that span. In 1992, he pitched a one-hitter against Baltimore. Selected by Cleveland on the first round of the 1988 amateur draft, Nagy went on to appear in two All-Star Games (1992, ’96) en route to winning 129 games against 105 losses. At UConn, Nagy was twice voted Big East Pitcher of the Year (1987, ’88); at Ludlowe, he starred in football as well as baseball.
Beth Norton-Keibler She was elected to the New England Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003, following a lengthy career in the sport that began at age 13. Norton-Keibler was ranked No. 1 nationally in the 18-and-under division, and later 20th in the world while competing against the likes of Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, and Martina Navratilova.
Bernie Reynolds In the late 1940s, Reynolds was a spirited fighter who won 27 of his first 28 bouts, possessed the New England heavyweight title, and ranked ninth in the world. He held his own against reigning heavyweight champion Joe Louis in a 1948 exhibition at the New Haven Arena. His won-lost-draw record: 52-13-1. A football star and team captain as a Ludlowe senior in 1941, Reynolds served overseas with the U.S. Army during World War II. He was inducted, posthumously, into the
Connecticut Boxing Hall
of Fame in 2008.