Final Round Follies, Properly Insured: The Travelers Championship

Incoherent Ramblings and Musings from The Traveler’s Championship….

My home state of Connecticut has held a PGA event since 1952.  It’s current name is The Traveler’s Championship, sponsored by an insurance company–rightly so considering the insurance capital of the world, Hartford, is a mere 10-15 minutes away.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be known as a different kind of capital?  The beer capital!  The beautiful woman capital or more importantly the chocolate capital—instead Hartford gets the insurance capital!  Insurance — something most people never use and hate to spend money on — great!  That’s Connecticut for ya.

My mother (an insurance broker — groan) had two corporate row tickets for Sunday’s final round.  I’m quite certain that not much golf is watched on corporate row.  Free food and alcohol plus the air-conditioned comfort of the corporate tents negate the urgency of the on-course action.

The 18th at TPC at River Highlands: another summer Sunday, another PGA Tour finish

My mother, bless her heart, wanted to make sure she saw Camilo Villegas (more on him later) and Bubba Watson (“You’re welcome”) come up the 18th hole.  When I commented to my mother and her insurance companion about their seats’ location—with no view of the golf course, I was greeted with “There’s golf going on today?”  ‘Nuff said.

“They” say that if you want to see a golf tournament then watch it on TV because you won’t see it if you go in person.  Very true, as logistically it’s impossible to see every pertinent shot that affects the outcome of a golf tournament.

I like to go to professional golf tournaments for a different reason — seeing the players close up. Not the canned TV coverage where there’s two shots per 15 minutes, with 10 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of commercials.

A quick stop at the range was highlighted by Padraig Harrington’s normal end routine of Happy Gilmoring a few drives.

It’s amazing to watch the best golfers in the world hit the sweet spot every time with grooved swings.  It’s also nice to see them acting like mere mortal hacks.

Looking every bit like a Golf Channel Junkie (NC2A) after watching a late night infomercial and purchasing the latest training aid that will solve his ailments, Stuart Appleby (he of the rare 59 in competition to win the Greenbrier in 2010) was hitting golf balls wearing some contraption wrapped around his knees.  Even the best in the word struggle to find it some days.

Scuttling back and forth between the corporate tent and the 18th fairway (once venturing out around behind the par 3 16th hole and parking once at the 17th fairway) I wanted to try to see as many golfers as possible in between chugs of Heineken, bits of fruit salad, pulled pork, meatball parmesan, chicken, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bars (with one Margarita mixed in somewhere).

The 18th hole at the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut is a fairly benign challenge for professional golfers.  It features an uphill tee shot with bunkers right and left of the landing area with a second shot of around 140-160 yards on average.   It has the TPC amphitheatre style green and fairway setup.

It’s interesting to see the player, caddie and fan interactions.  Some comments raised laughter from the players.  Other players didn’t seem to notice.

I was a bit put off by the ones who didn’t acknowledge the cheers with a Queen like wave or at least tip of the cap or hand to the brim of their sponsored logo cap.  I thought the only time people will clap for me on the golf course is when I’m done and out of their way.

Bo Van Pelt, after a drive in the right hand side of the fairway, left his wedge shot short of the putting surface.  Some pro in the gallery offered this advice as if he was talking to his Sunday foursome partner “just a chip and putt Bo.”  (Thanks.)  I was impressed that Bo waved off his caddie and picked up and replaced his own divot.

Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey came through and was greeted by a drunken yahoo imploring him to “hole it.”

Robert Karlsson’s approach shot from the right hand fairway bunker was greeted right after impact with “GET CLOSE!” as IF he was hoping for a 75-foot chip shot from behind a tree.

Webb Simpson, newly crowned U.S. Open champion, received a rousing welcome and comments from the gallery:

  • “Webb, don’t forget you’re the Champ, don’t forget” (Hmm the big trophy might be a reminder?  Webb did laugh at this one)
  • “Nice win last week Webb,”
  • “Thanks for coming out this week Webb, class act.”

Connecticut was proud to have the current U.S. Open champ come play our little event on the opposite coast the week after a major win.  Webb you had us at I’m still coming to play your tournament.

Rocco Mediate, always a fan favorite, came through 18 to a rousing ovation.  I sat watching him hit his approach shot thinking hey Adam Barr, Rocco Mediate –switched at birth!  (I have been informed this is not a new joke).

I saw Keegan Bradley, the pride of New England, play a few shots on the 16th, 17th and 18th hole.  The reigning PGA Champion, Keegan hit some impressive shots – his tee shot on 16 to 8 feet and another nice approach inside 10 feet on 17.  Keegan hit the longest drive of the day on the 18th hole  (347 yards).

However, Keegan is as painful to watch in person as on TV.  He starts.  He stops. He backs off.  He takes half swings at the ball.  Hurry up and hit the damn ball!

And finally, I saw Camilo Villegas.

The heartthrob.  Tight white pants.  Tight shirt.

In person, he’s actually not that big a guy.  I thought I could take him.  (Sorry Ma!) — Author name withheld by request

[Editor’s note: The author is a veteran golf equipment industry representative, Dad, and Springsteen fan from Connecticut. Despite the resemblance, there is no connection between Adam Barr and Rocco Mediate. As far as you know.]

Copyright 2012

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