This Week in Golf– The Travelers

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, June 27th, 2015

BWatson-847-JimRogash

The Travelers
June 24 – June 28, 2015
TPC River Highlands
Cromwell, Connecticut
Purse – $6,400,000
Defendng Champ – Kevin Streelman

Travelers’ hospitality keeps top pros coming back

By Brian Wacker
There are 2,420 miles between Seattle-Tacoma International airport and Bradley International airport in Connecticut. There are no direct flights, unless you’re flying private or on a charter, something the Travelers Championship arranges for players, caddies and family members the morning after the U.S. Open.
“With their date (Travelers is) in a tough spot,” Billy Horschel said. “They make it convenient by saying it doesn’t matter where the U.S. Open is, we’re going to have everything organized for you, and you say, ‘I wanna come here.'”
There are 39 players in this week’s field who were at Chambers Bay last week. Seven of them finished inside the top 15.
Among them are 9 of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings and 5 of the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking. That number would have been even higher if Jason Day didn’t come down with vertigo last week. Still, as late as Sunday night he was considering making the cross-country journey anyway.
How does a tournament in Connecticut the week after a major championship do it?
It starts with the charter, something that Travelers started providing when it took over title sponsorship of the event in 2007. It’s provided free of charge to players, who are allowed to bring up to two guests but sometimes bring more.
The plane is usually something like a 737 with 160 seats on it and around 100 passengers. Players and their caddies and families drive directly onto the tarmac, step out of their U.S. Open courtesy car or rental, get on the plane and fly direct to Bradley. On the other end are an army of cars and volunteers.
“That makes it a little bit easier instead of multiple planes to get here,” said Bubba Watson. “The first time I met the Travelers crew, you can just tell that they were excited for us to be here.
This is their hometown. This is where Travelers has most of their employees.
“You can tell the energy behind their company. You can tell the energy behind they want to be part of this golf tournament. So that’s going to excite the players. Obviously a lot of players take time off a big major like that, so it’s hard for them to get here. But the field that’s here has always gotten better.”
So have the efforts of the people running the tournament.
Andy Bessette, a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team in the hammer throw who set a then-Olympic trials record of almost 233 feet, is the Chief Administrative Officer and Executive Vice President of the Travelers. He and his staff hit the road for five or six events a year in what essentially amount to recruiting trips.
“It’s not often you get an executive from one of our title sponsors come out (to other tournaments) and shake hands and say hello,” said Zach Johnson, another player in the field this week after playing in last week’s U.S. Open. “That’s unique … and awesome.”
The tournament also takes care of the caddies. Every year, they put on a party for them one night during the week. They also provide free laundry service and other goodies like a jacket with the tournament’s logo. There’s a large tent, too, where they can crash and grab a meal (again: free).
One year, Keegan Bradley’s sister was at the tournament with her young son Aiden, just a baby. They let her park in front of the clubhouse — a valet area for usually just players and caddies — so she could keep an eye on him while meeting up with Bradley.
It was a small thing but one that Bradley still remembers.
“This is probably one of the hardest spots to have on the schedule because after the U.S. Open you’re dead, let alone (a U.S. Open) on the west coast,” he said.   “Just like little stuff like that that you don’t see as much at tournaments. They have a personal touch here.”
The list of winners has been pretty good, too.
Watson and Hunter Mahan each got their first career victory at TPC River Highlands. Last year, Kevin Streelman rattled off seven straight birdies to close out his round and beat Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi by a shot.
Garcia is back again for this year’s tournament.
It also doesn’t hurt that TPC River Highlands feels like a breath of fresh air after the difficulty of major championship, this year in particular.
When Patrick Reed showed up on the driving range earlier this week he bent down, rubbed the ground and said, “So this is what grass feels like.” It was as much a swipe at Chambers Bay as it was a nod to the lush, pristine conditions of this week’s event.
“The greens look so perfect,” Bradley said. “Just to see the ball rolling on the greens is amazing.”
So, too, is the length the tournament goes to in order to get a good field on a tough date.
“Travelers has always wanted to be a part of this,” Watson said. “And you can tell by the community.”

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