CROMWELL -- The Travelers Championship comes with a long history in Connecticut. The PGA tournament dates back to 1952 but has several name changes.
It began as the Insurance City Open until 1967 when it became the Greater Hartford Open. It changed names again in 1973 to become the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open and remained that way until Cannon added their name to the title in 1985. In 1989 it was called the Canon Greater Hartford Open and kept that name for another decade. It was in 2003, however that the tournament neared extinction.
That was when Buick took over, but their sponsorship only lasted for the next three years. By 2006 the tournament was in jeopardy once again.
“And then Travelers fortunately came in in 2007 and saved the tournament,” said Bruce Berlet, a long time Hartford Courant Reporter, now a writer for the Southern New England Golf Magazine. He’s been covering the tournament for 46 straight years and saw firsthand the changes that came with the latest sponsorship.
“Travelers enabled them to stay in the A-league. I don’t think there’s any doubt they have the best field since the mid-90’s, because when you have three of the top five players in the world unless you’re a major championship you’re not going to do much better than that,” Bruce Berlet said. He added bringing big names is only part of the equation.
“There’s not many executives from big time title sponsors who are walking the practice range like Andy Bessette does,” Berlet said.
Andy Bessette, Travelers’ Executive Vice President, told FOX61 they’re proud to be “a home town company that sponsors a hometown event that gives 100 percent of our net proceeds to charity.” Bessette added this year’s event comes with new experiences for fans.
“Every year we try to get better, we hate the status quo and you have to always improve from year-to-year day-to-day and fans are our number one concern,” Bessette said.
Fans watching the Celebrity Pro-Am Wednesday, said they too have seen the difference in the tournament since Travelers took over.
“I have to say that of all the sponsors that Travelers has been incredible they have amplified everything, the fan experience they’ve gone to no ends to make people feel welcome,” said Rusty Millard, of Wethersfield.
Millard has been attending the tournament for decades and worked as a caddy when it was held at the Wethersfield Country Club. He now takes his grandson to watch and is thrilled to continue the tradition with the next generation of the sport.