HARTFORD, Conn. – The accolades and recognition continue to come for the Travelers Championship.
For the second consecutive year, the 2018 tournament was honored with the “Player’s Choice” Award during the PGA Tour’s Tournament Meetings. That came a year after Connecticut’s largest sporting event received a record four awards, including “Tournament of the Year” for the first time.
“On behalf of the PGA Tour, I am pleased to congratulate the Travelers Championship for this special recognition,” PGA Tour Chief Tournaments and Competitions Officer Andy Pazder said in a statement. “The tournament committee should be extremely proud of its hard work and innovation in making the tournament the best among its peers on Tour.”
The “Players Choice” award is voted on exclusively by PGA Tour members and is based on players’ experiences with tournament services, hospitality, player and family amenities, community support, attendance, golf course and other attributes.
“We’re honored to receive this award and try to think of everything when it comes to the players because we want them to enjoy their week,” said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Travelers, who is one of the few top officials from a title sponsor to help recruit players at other tournament sites. “We take great pride in the relationships we build with the players on the PGA Tour, so having them give this to us makes it very special.”
The Travelers Championship goes above and beyond to assist players, caddies and their families, not only during tournament week, but throughout the FedEx Cup season. One of the major perks for players is a charter flight provided from the U.S. Open, played the week before the Travelers Championship.
“This award is incredibly meaningful to us because it comes directly from the players on the PGA Tour, and we work hard to deliver a world-class experience for them,” tournament director Nathan Grube said. “The tremendous support we receive each year from the players and the PGA Tour helps us to generate significant money for charity and deliver an economic boost to our community and state.”
This year’s tournament received special support from the players with the best field since Travelers became the title sponsor in 2007, including defending champion Jordan Spieth, eventual Player of the Year Brooks Koepka, who won the U.S. Open for the second straight year and the PGA Championship, Masters titlist Patrick Reed, two-time winner Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, former Travelers titlists Stewart Cink, Marc Leishman, Kevin Streelman and Fairfield native J.J. Henry, the only Connecticut player to win the event; and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, who shot a PGA Tour-record, 12-under-par 58 in the final round in 2016.
Travelers became the title sponsor and has been supporting the event in some capacity since the tournament’s debut in 1952 as the Insurance Open at Wethersfield Country Club. The event has generated more than $40 million for charity, including a record $2 million for more than 150 local charities throughout the region in 2018. That included a $200,000 contribution from Watson, who won his third Travelers Championship title. Only World Golf Hall of Famer Billy Casper (four) has won the event more times than Watson.
Charity representatives joined officials from Travelers and the tournament at The Society Room of Hartford for the annual Travelers Championship Charity Celebration, where funds were distributed to each organization.
“This is always a special day because it signifies the hard work everyone puts into the tournament,” Grube said. “Through the support we receive from volunteers, fans, players and businesses, we’re able to help charitable groups across the region make the community a better place.”
The total amount generated for charity is more than $16.7 million since Travelers became title sponsor, and at least 750 charities have benefited over that time.
“Reaching the $2 million mark is an important milestone, and it will have such a meaningful impact on so many local organizations,” Bessette said. “Bubba’s generosity mirrors our charity-first approach, and follows a similar sentiment that runs through the PGA Tour and many of its players.”
The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, founded by the late actor Paul Newman, was the primary beneficiary of this year’s tournament, with three campers serving as honorary co-chairs. Watson directed his $200,000 donation to the Camp, which is naming the trading post at the Travelers Mini Golf Course on its campus in Ashford as the “Bubba Watson’s Trading Post” in recognition of the 12-time PGA Tour winner.
In addition to receiving the “Players Choice” award and being named “Tournament of the Year” in 2017, the Travelers Championship was selected “Most Fan Friendly Event” and “Best Tournament Sales.” The tournament has now earned 14 PGA Tour awards since 2009, with the others being “Most Fan Friendly Event” (2010, 2012), “Best Title Sponsor Integration” (2009, 2010, 2012), “Best Marketing Program” (2011), “Best Use of Players” (2012), “Best Charity Integration” (2013) and “Best Special Event” (2016, when it hosted the Bruce Edwards Foundation Dinner in memory of the Wethersfield native who worked 30 years on the PGA Tour, mostly for Hall of Famer Tom Watson, before he died of ALS.)
The tournament donates 100 percent of its net proceeds to charity, and preparation has already started for the 2019 Travelers Championship, which will be played June 17-23 at TPC River Highlands, where a new 40,000-square-foot clubhouse is being built.