By PAT EATON-ROBB
CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) _ U.S. Open champion Justin Rose has no plans to take any time off after winning his first major championship.
Nathan Grube, the tournament director at the Travelers Championship, said Rose’s wife, Kate, called shortly after he won his first major title, to confirm they would be in Connecticut for this week’s tournament.
“She called last night at about 9:30 and I looked down at the phone and said, `This is either going to be a really good call or a really bad call,”’ Grube said Monday. “It was fine. She said, `We’re coming, we’re just trying to rearrange our schedule a little bit because of all the media (commitments).”’
Rose, who rose from fifth to third in the current world rankings with his win at Merion, is in a field that includes just five other top-20 players: Lee Westwood (12), Keegan Bradley (14), Jason Dufner (17), Ian Poulter (18), and Bubba Watson (19).
Web Simpson (21) also is playing a year after he, too, won the U.S. Open and kept his commitment to play in Cromwell.
The Travelers held its opening ceremony on Monday morning, marking the 61st straight year the PGA Tour has visited greater Hartford and the seventh under its current name.
Andy Bessette, the chief administrative officer and executive vice president of the insurance giant, said the company is in negotiations to remain the title sponsor of the Connecticut PGA stop, and expects to finalize a deal before the end of this summer.
“As long they want us, we’re going to figure out how to make this work, and get this done before September 30th,” Bessette said.
The company took over the title sponsorship in 2006, after the tournament had been eliminated from the 2007 PGA schedule because of a lack of a sponsor.
The TPC River Highlands was set to become a Champions Tour stop, when another tournament dropped out of the PGA schedule, opening a window for Hartford. Travelers agreed to help get the event back in the PGA mix, and Bessette said it turned out to be a great move for the company and the region.
“We’re only one of five community-based sponsors on the Tour, five out of 45,” he said. “So to be a hometown sponsor and do good for the community, give back to charity, it’s critical.”
Travelers also has committed to fund a special program that the tournament and PGA plan to run in Newtown, Conn., site of the December massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Grube and Bessette said.
The tournament will provide golf lessons in the town’s elementary schools and through summer camps as part of the First Tee program, a youth development organization designed to teach values such as honesty and integrity through the sport.
“There were a lot of ideas on the table,” Grube said. “This was something the town told us would help in healing process. We’re doing some other things, but the town has asked that we keep those off the radar.”
The golf tournament begins Wednesday with the annual pro-am, and a new twist this year, a celebrity mini-golf pro-am.
Actors Alec Baldwin and CJ Adams, former UConn basketball players and WWE stars are among those scheduled to participate.
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