by Rob Joyce
This week begins the 63rd year of professional golf in Connecticut with the Travelers Championship. One of the longest-running tournaments on the PGA Tour, some of golf’s biggest names have taken the stage in the greater Hartford area. As you gear up for the week in Cromwell, here are five things you may not know about the Travelers:
1) Arnold Palmer’s first PGA Tour victory in the United States came in Connecticut.
At 27 years old, Palmer’s only win on the Tour was the Canadian Open. Before he was The King, he got his first Tour win in the US in a playoff over Ted Kroll at the 1956 Insurance City Open, the first of two victories that year. By the time Palmer won the tournament again in 1960, he had three majors to his name and was well into one of the best careers in golf history.
2) The tournament is a hotbed for young golfers.
For 16 golfers, their first PGA win in any country came in Connecticut. That pace has picked up dramatically in recent years: each of the last four champions (Ken Duke, Marc Leishman, Fredrik Jacobson and Bubba Watson) and six of the last eight were first-time PGA Tour champions with their victories at the Travelers.
3) Phil Mickelson is the tournament’s only repeat champion.
Six golfers have won the tournament multiple times, including Arnold Palmer, Paul Azinger and Stewart Cink. However, only Lefty has done it in back-to-back years when he won in 2001 and 2002. On the final day in 2002, Mickelson erased a five-stroke deficit to edge Davis Love III and Jonathan Kaye in front of a record 323,000 spectators.
Hall of Famer Billy Casper is the only person to win the tournament more than twice. He was crowned champion four times.
4) The tournament has not always taken place at the TPC River Highlands.
In fact, for over 30 years the tournament was not in Cromwell at all. From the inaugural Insurance City Open in 1952 until 1983 (by then called the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open), the tournament took place at Wethersfield Country Club. In 1984 the tournament moved to the TPC of Connecticut in Cromwell. Then in 1991 the course was redesigned, featuring an entirely new front nine, and renamed the TPC River Highlands.
5) The first winner of the event took home a $2400 grand prize.
Ted Kroll’s four-stroke victory in the first ever tournament earned him the top prize in 1952. To compare, Ken Duke took home nearly $1.1 million for winning last year’s championship. Even the last person to make the cut, Henrik Norlander, was awarded over $10,500 in 2013 for finishing 83rd.
Kroll would lead the PGA Tour in earnings four years later, making over $72,000 total in 1956. One top-20 finish in 2014 would earn over $75,000. Yeah, it’s good to be a golfer.