CROMWELL, Connecticut – The Central Connecticut Traveler Championship, played on a golf course next to a cornfield, this week marks its 70th anniversary, making it one of the oldest continuously operating PGA Tour events. Tournaments have changed names and venues over the decades, but in a small state that lacks a professional franchise in one of North America’s four leading sports (the NHL Hartford Whalers left 25 years ago), travelers have been a valuable foothold in Connecticut. Sports Calendar.
It was also valuable for the PGA tour, reliably attracting the biggest people of the tour season. He is loved by golfers for his sophisticated approach to the home, which puts the player’s wives and children under personal scrutiny, and this, in turn, has revealed numerous winners such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spitt and Buba Watson.
The 1995 winner was Greg Norman, then the No. 1 male golf player in the world. Norman is the CEO of the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Series, which spoiled the PGA tour by attracting top golfers with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of guaranteed contracts. For two months, the start-up circle threatened the advantage of the PGA tour and, potentially, the tour’s legacy events such as travelers – which, in addition to entertaining New England golf fans, attracted sponsorships that led to more than $ 46 million in donations to 800 charities.
The main beneficiary for years was the camp in North Connecticut, which helps about 20,000 seriously ill children and their families each year and was founded by state resident, actor Paul Newman.
The focus of the intense confrontation between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, whose main shareholder is the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund, a public investment fund, has been cash offers for already wealthy golfers – with geopolitical underpinnings – but no other related figures such as Conn. Precious Golf Tournament.
Can LIV Golf, which has planned eight events this year, including five in the United States, finally cancel or reduce the Traveler Championship and more than 30 other PGA Tour-like events across the country? Already, Mickelson and Johnson, who were recently banned from touring along with all the other LIV Golf deacons, are missing this week’s pitch. Michelson, 52, probably would not have played, but Johnson, the 2020 champion, enthusiastically promised to return to Connecticut in February.
On Thursday, during the first round of travelers standing on Fan Gallery Hill overlooking Hole 18, Jay Hibbard from Woodstock, Con., Said he missed Johnson, “but not so much.”
“Dustin took the money and made a choice, but I’m not coming here to catch any golf,” said Hibbard, 39. “Most golf fans come for the atmosphere and to see the big golf up close. And there are many more major champions this week.
Mike Stanley from Plainville, Con. But there are still some of the best guys – I followed Rory McIlroy today and then Scott Scheffler.
Scheffler and McIlroy are first and second in the men’s world rankings, and in the field of travel they were joined by four other top 15 golfers. In contrast, none of the players participating in the LIV Golf Tour are in the top 15 in the world.
In the players ’dressing room this week, Sahit Tegala, a 24-year-old rookie on the PGA Tour, said players his age have a similar mindset: their loyalty is towards the PGA Tour.
“I’m coming from a modest upbringing,” Tegala said, “and I feel like money has been lost. It seems like the million dollars a lot of guys are making on this tour is falling apart as if it were nothing, right? ”
Asked if he was worried about the future of PGA Tour events like Travelers, Tegala nodded.
“There is a history and a legacy to this tour that the young boys wanted to be a part of,” Tegala said. “There is no new round; You are literally only playing for money. “
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He added: “I can not buy a game with a clear mind and a clear conscience.”
Joanna Aversa from Waterbury, Con., Who attended her first travelers, wondered if LIV Golf’s entry into the men’s golf market could not expand the sport’s appeal.
“In the past, the golf community was perceived as very elitist,” he said. “Maybe when golfers leave these big contracts, we can get a whole new wave of fans who feel more comfortable because they don’t have to know all the best people and things like that. They can just go out for good golf and have fun. ”
Financially, Travelers officials said the event was going well. Nathan Grub, the tournament director, said ticket sales for this year’s event surpassed the 2019 tournament, which was the last time travelers were not limited to a pandemic. Corporate hospitality tents sold. All net proceeds will be donated to charity, while total donations, which were more than $ 2.2 million last year, are expected to increase.
“This is a good place now,” Grube said.
In 1988, Newman founded a gang of sick children in a wall camp, opened the same day this year as the first round of travelers. The organization has hospital liaison programs that bring summer camp experience to dozens of locations alongside children in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. All programs dedicated to children with cancer and other diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, blood and metabolic disorders, are free.
“The presence of the top beneficiaries of the Travelers’ Championship allows us to expand our capabilities,” Ryan Thompson, the camp’s chief communications officer, said Friday. “It’s much more than a golf tournament; It’s a source of public pride for everything that contributes to it. “