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Sports Commentary 5/15/13

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Media Day for the Traveler’s Championship Tuesday

THE BEST THE PGA TOUR HAS TO OFFER

35 years ago the PGA Tour put the Greater Hartford Jaycees on notice.  The Wethersfield Country Club, which had yielded a 23 under par winning score to Tim Norris, no longer met Tour standards, and, unless the, then, Sammy Davis Junior-Greater Hartford Open made an acceptable venue change it would be dropped from the schedule.  Tournament officials scrambled to find a course, Edgewood in Cromwell the most easily attainable because it was privately owned, and they hired Tour favorite architect Pete Dye, who created a course so Tour worthy it eventually became a Tournament Players Course.  Seven years ago the local stop, without a title sponsor, was dropped from the Tour and hoping to find a home on the Champions Tour when, at an 11th hour that played out over 72 dramatic hours, Travelers stepped in as the title sponsor and once again secured our status on the big tour.  Twice, thanks to the committment of tournament officials, we dodged a bullet, just when all seemed lost.  In retrospect it would have been the Tour’s loss.  Behind the committment from the title sponsor and the hands on approach of Traveler’s executive vice president Andy Bessett, the Travelers Championship has become the epitomy of everything the PGA Tour wants it’s events to be, a driving force within the community, spearheading fund raising for local charities while creating a family environment for the touring pros.  The Travelers Championship is all that and more, becoming a favorite stop for the biggest names on Tour, as was further evidenced yesterday by committments from Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington, Rickie Fowler, Lee Westwood, Jason Dufner and 2011 champ Freddie Jacobsen.  The PGA Tour annually presents 11 awards to it’s member events, 11 awards spread out among 46 tournaments.  For 2012 the Travelers won three of them, leaving just eight for the other 45 events, “Most Fan Friendly”, “Best Use of Players” and “Best Title Sponsor Integration”.  The Travelers has become the champion of fund raising for more than 100 local charities, scholarships and programs, while driving an economic impact to the state of more than $160 million, just in Travelers first six years.  The charitable giving of the Travelers is never more evident than in the annual donations to their chief charitable partner, Paul Newman’s Hole In The Wall Gang Camps for children with debilitating diseases, giving them a chance every summer to just be kids.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at yesterday’s annual media gathering when a  video celebration of the camp’s 25th anniversary was presented, introduced by Newman himself, the man who’s philosophy still permeates life at the dozens of camps worldwide, “If you want to have fun or get things done, you have to kick up a little hell.”  The camps this year were represented by Manchester Community College music student Marqueille Johnson, a victim of sickle cell disease, which shortens the life of red blood cells and weakens the immune system.  It’s a condition one is born with and to Marqueille the regular treatments are just his lifestyle.  He first attended the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp when he was six years old and he’s committed his life to it, becoming a leader in training in 2011.  He’ll soon transfer into the standout music program at Western Connecticut with a “can do” attitude on life that mirror’s Paul Newman’s own.  Twice the PGA Tour almost lost this tournament.  Today they thank their lucky stars they still have it, our tournament, as the shining example of the best the PGA Tour has to offer.  With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

 

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