Scott on Travelers’ Championship Media Day in Cromwell
Frederick Jacobson was the star but Kim Babicz stole the show yesterday morning at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Jacobson was there to talk golf. The defending champion of the PGA Travelers Championship, he was in town to preview this year’s tournament, teeing off just seven weeks from tomorrow, to recall his first PGA Tour title, after an eight year drought, and to discuss the state of golf and his own game in the ensuing ten months. The Travelers Championship is, of course, a professional golf tournament, but it’s about so much more than golf, it’s about community, and over $30 million the proceeds from the tournament have poured into hundreds of local charities as it celebrates it’s 60th birthday. Not only is the Travelers Championship the biggest single annual sporting event in Connecticut, with every penny of profit going back into the community, it is one of the state’s largest philanthropic endeavors. Kim Babicz drove that point home. “If I could step into a time machine and erase my whole cancer experience”, she said of a two year ordeal that began when she was just twelve years old, “It would mean I’d also have to erase my Hole in the Wall Gang Camp experience. I don’t know what I’d do.” The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was founded in 1988 by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman as a haven for children suffering from life threatening diseases, offering them the full summer camp experience with the professional staff and equipment to keep up with their regular treatments. It is one of the primary beneficiaries of the Travelers Championship. “I went into remission in two years”, said Babicz, who says they prefer not to use the phrase “past treatment”, “because it can always come back.” Since 2007 she’s been a staff member at the camp, which is not just a place. “It’s a way of interacting with a child battling a disease”, said Hole in the Wall Gang Camp CEO Jimmy Canton, “We can do camp anywhere. We can bring it into the community, we can bring it into the home of a child.” Babicz, now 24, for whom the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp has become a year round experience, told the story of a child for whom the prognosis has taken a desparate turn. Given little time to live, he chooses to continue his weekly treatments because the visits allow him to reconnect with his friends from camp. “I was just worried about making it to the next holiday”, Babicz told a room filled with the normally sarcastic and cynical members of the Connecticut sports media, the looks on their faces demonstrating that she held their hearts in the palm of her hand as she spoke from a script that existed only in her heart. Today she doesn’t know if she would choose to have never had cancer if it meant she would never have had the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. The Travelers Championship turns 60 this year. It’s a golf tournament. Frederick Jacobson is the defending champion. But it’s so much more to so many people. Yesterday Kim Babicz championed all of them. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.