How the Travelers Championship overcame the turmoil and became a PGA Tour

Cromwell, Connecticut – How did the Small Town Travelers Championship become a PGA Tour tournament, despite being right after the US Open?

I started with the turtle race.

In 1951, the Greater Hartford Jr. Chamber of Commerce (Jacys) needed a way to raise money. So she ran the Turtle Derby at Bolkeley Stadium in Hartford. The idea arose from a successful fundraiser for Jesse’s turtle race in Evansville, Indiana. But in Hartford, things didn’t go quite as well.

Racing turtles got lost while being shipped from Louisiana, and Jaycees had to dive into a local pond to find replacement creatures. Despite a recent attempt to save the fundraiser, it did not raise enough funds. So the Jaycees’ next endeavor was to write a letter to the US PGA requesting to host a golf tournament.

Lo and behold, a year later, the Insurance City Open was born on August 29 at Wethersfield Country Club. Ted Kroll earned $2,400 from his $15,000 portfolio. The total number of attendees was 20,000.

Behind an abundance of corporate sponsors and local government support, the tournament has since run annually for the past 70 years, garnering a unique history, raising millions of dollars for charity and becoming a premier weekend in the state — and according to the tour schedule.

“I remember Rory [McIlroy] Talking about this, when he came to play or for the first time, he said, “Oh man, these fans are so appreciative, and so in this, and thank you so much, and like, so gracious, and they turn up at 6:50 a.m. I mean, you don’t get that in All over,” Nathan Grob, who has been the Travelers Championship manager since 2005, told

In 1967, the tournament was renamed Greater Hartford Open, its more famous title, as tournament organizers wanted to expand its sponsors beyond Hartford’s insurance companies.

Entertainment legend Sammy Davis Jr. attached his name to the championship from 1973 to 1988, attracting a slew of celebrities, such as Michael Jordan, Sandy Kovacs, Lawrence Taylor, Wayne Gretzky, and President Gerald Ford, for his loyal loyalists. It also once attracted the largest crowd of any tour event, although it is now the second annual for the WM Phoenix Open.

“It’s really cool for Hartford – it seems like everyone in the whole city is here [hole] 18 and it is an incredible experience,” said 2021 champion Harris English.

In 1984, as the event continued to grow in stature, it moved to its present location at TPC River Heights (then called TPC in Connecticut) in Cromwell, a town of presently about 14,000 residents that spans only 13 square miles. The new location came with increased parking space, corporate zipper bins, and a more convenient touring course.

Canon became the main sponsor of the tournament in 1985. But in 2002, the company announced that it was ending its run with the event due to a “change in strategy.”

Suddenly, after 50 straight years, the tournament’s future is in jeopardy, and she’s struggling to find a new sponsor.

Roger Gelvenbein, who was the chairman of the title sponsor advisory group, told the Hartford Courant in October 2002.

With a title sponsor unlikely to come in time for the 2003 event, the board moved to a “bridge plan,” which was to raise enough funds by November 18 to stay on the tour calendar. In just one month, $3.75 million was made available in contributions from 32 event beneficiaries, and the tournament got underway in 2003 without a title sponsor.

Buick took over in 2004, but only for three years. Grube wasn’t even a year into his stint as manager when Buick withdrew its sponsorship. After the release of ’06, there were five months when the championship was halted and the event team was figuring out what the new iteration could be.

“It wasn’t a time that we were like, ‘Man, what’s going to happen? “We actually started talking to the Champions Tour, we started talking to the LPGA Tour, because we no longer have a date on the 2007 PGA Tour schedule,” Groppi said.

Then in April 2006 84 Lumber canceled his contract with the Pennsylvania Classic and suddenly had an open spot on the tour calendar.

“The PGA Tour and our team got together and [Travelers] He said: You know? “We want to bring this thing back now that there was an appointment,” Grob said. Then in April 2006, put the contract with the Travelers. (Executive Vice President of Travelers) Andy Bisset led the decade on the Travelers side. Then we announced in April, like, “Hey, look, Buick isn’t the last year of the PGA Tour in Connecticut.”

Despite the tournament’s return to the Tour, there was a caveat – its new date will follow the US Open.

In an effort to attract the strongest possible field, Grube kept hearing the same thing from players – the week following the US Open would be “tough”.

So, in response, Grube and Bessette began asking the players one question: “Why?”

“All these reasons we kept hearing, Andy and I were like, ‘I actually think we can do something about it,’” Groppi said. But one of the big things we started with is that people always say, ‘Hey, next week [U.S.] Open, guys are tired. So let’s make getting here as easy as possible.”

The first thing they did was offer a free non-stop charter flight from a private airport near the US Open site for players and their families. When everyone lands in Connecticut, their free cars are ready, and any children who accompany them are welcomed with gift packages.

Full-field sprint times from the Travelers Championship

That’s not all. For those 50 little things, that includes renewing daycare programs, improving a player’s menu, starting a can appreciation day, or something as small as fixing a player’s broken phone or replacing the iPad for a player’s child who cries because he lost his phone. .

“I think it’s a testament that if you do a really good tournament and care deeply about it, you can attract the best players in the world, even if there are some obstacles in the way,” said Patrick Cantlay.

Another key element to having a strong field year after year is developing relationships with younger players via exemptions – one of which was Cantlay in 2011. That year at TPC River Highlands, Cantlay, at age 19, shot 60 in round 2, which is round Least round ever made by an amateur.

“Granting waivers to Patrick Cantlay when he was a freshman at UCLA, Justin Thomas a sophomore at the University of Alabama, Webb Simpson, Ricky Fowler, really trying to do our research and doing our homework on some kind of next generation, building relationships with the next generation,” Grob said. of youth.”

Seventy years after the failure of turtle racing that yielded the fruits of a Connecticut and tour staple, some of the young golf stars, such as Chris Guterop, Cole Hammer, Benjamin James, and Michael Thorbjornsen, will take a trip to rural Connecticut and tour a field. It features four of the world’s top five players, including Thomas and Cantley. They will all compete for a piece of a suitcase that is worth more than $7 million than it was in 1952.

With what the championship has achieved and beaten, the goal is to continue to repeat its cycle with continuous development. However, the mission of the tournament was and will always be the same.

“If I go back in time and talk to those people who started[Open City Insurance]I bet they have some passion that we have,” Groppi said. “It’s about how do we give back to our community? How can we make an impact?”

This was the magic formula.

“The tournament is a huge success story,” Cantlay said. “I think they’re getting a great pitch in a tough week on schedule. The week after the US Open probably isn’t a week you’d expect a lot of the best players to play in. They’ve done an amazing job with the tournament, with the community supporting it and with the travelers, they’ve done a job Fantastic this week. It’s definitely one of the best tournaments of the year.”