Travelers Championship to revolve around more than golf as ALS charity becomes big focus

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travelers-championshipCROMWELL–Monday was media day at Travelers Golf Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, and some VIPs were in attendance.

FOX 61 spoke to several main players about what to expect this year both on and off the golf course from the annual event.

First up, we spoke to Andy Bessette, the chief administrative officer and executive  vice president of Travelers, who explained why today isn’t the first day of the tournament, as it has been in past years.

 

“The Olympics schedule pushed off the entire PGA schedule for the entire summer,” Bessette said, so we still have 40 days until the tournament begins at the beginning of August. But it’s not necessarily bad news, especially since three majors and one world tournament will be held over that seven-week period. “Where we are is actually a pretty good week for us.”

But the most important aspect of the tournament isn’t what par the golfers hit, it’s what’s done for the community at large.

“We’re such a hometown company sponsoring this hometown event for hometown charities. We’re really proud of being the title sponsor, and it’s just a continuation of who we are as a company,” Bessette explained.

This year the Travelers Championship is embracing ALS, a degenerative disorder that weakens the body’s muscles. Former Travelers Cos. CEO Jay Fishman stepped down from his position leading the insurance company last year after he was diagnosed with ALS, though he remains as executive chairman of the board.

“We’re leaning into (ALS) as a company for the entire community to embrace it,” Bessette said.

Specifically, there will be a dinner held on Friday, August 5, at the Convention Center during the championship, to raise money for ALS. The dinner is expected to raise $1 million for the Bruce Edwards Foundation, which honors a Wethersfield man who died in 2004 from ALS.

Edwards was a professional golf caddy for hall of famer Tom Watson for more than a decade, and now Watson will honor his old friend by hosting the dinner, along with author John Feinstein, who authored a book called “Caddy for Life” based on Edwards’ life. Jay Fishman will host as well.

Watson and Feinstein together founded the Bruce Edwards Foundation, and the $1 million expected to be raised will be donated to research.

Tournament Director Nathan Grube also spoke about the incredible work the championship will do for ALS.

 

“That’s the main reason for the tournament,” Grube said, speaking about the charitable fundraising side of the championship. “And we have a main focus on ALS this year.”

The main beneficiary of funds raised will be the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, Grube said. The hospital cares for in-state residents who suffer from ALS, and its the only location in Connecticut that is part of the certified treatment centers from the ALS Association.

 

But he didn’t shy away from discussing a little golf as well.

“Our field this year is going to be as strong as ever…there’s going to be some great players,” Grube said, noting people should keep an eye on the website for announcements of players coming to the field in August.

Last but not least, FOX 61's Rich Coppola spoke to the reigning Travelers champ Bubba Watson about his return.

bubba watsonWatson first started playing at Travelers in 2006, and won his first ever PGA event at the championship in 2010. He followed that up with another win in Cromwell last year, and hopes to do that again this year.

He says that while he is looking forward to playing in the Olympics in Rio this summer, the Travelers Championship holds a lot of meaning in his heart and for his family.

"When you've seen what this meant to my family in general, I would never miss this tournament," Watson said, referring to him losing his father just three months after winning the championship in 2010. "Obviously the Olympics is a big deal, we all want to be there, but at the same time, what Travelers has meant to my family as a whole, I would never miss it."

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