GOLF WRITER // GENERAL EDITORIAL SPECIALIST
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The Connecticut State & Bunnell High Golf Scribe

Schedules, results, commentary and feature items from the world of golf in the state of Connecticut, plus golf results and highlights from Bunnell High School.

Reed, Casey and Leishman latest to commit to Travelers Championship

HARTFORD, Conn., April 3 – The Travelers Championship announced that 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed will play in this year’s tournament, his eighth appearance at the Travelers. On March 20 it had been announced that two-time Travelers runner-up Paul Casey, including last year, and 2012 winner Marc Leishman are the latest to commit to play in this summer’s tournament.

“Marc and Paul are fierce competitors who are often found near the top of our leaderboard,” Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube was quoted in a press release. “Adding them to our field certainly builds on the competition, which can only make our tournament that much more exciting for the fans.”

Leishman and Casey join six other current top-20 players — Brooks Koepka (No. 3), Justin Thomas (No. 5), Bryson DeChambeau (No. 6), Francesco Molinari (No. 7), Tony Finau (No. 14) and defending champion Bubba Watson (No. 17) — who already have committed to play in the 2019 Travelers, set for June 17-23 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. For tickets and more information on this year’s tournament, visit www.TravelersChampionship.com.

Casey finished second in 2015, when he lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff, and again in 2018. He is a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR, with victories at the 2009 Shell Houston Open and 2018 Valspar Championship. Casey has 13 wins on the European Tour, most recently at the KLM Open in 2014. A 41-year-old from England, he has represented Team Europe in four Ryder Cups, has been as high as No. 3 in the world golf rankings and is currently ranked No. 15.

Leishman earned the first of his four PGA TOUR victories at the 2012 Travelers when he shot a 62 in the final round. In eight tournament appearances, Leishman has made seven cuts, won once and has finished in the top 20 three other times. He won twice on the PGA TOUR in 2017, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and BMW Championship. Leishman’s fourth win came this season at the CIMB Classic. The 35-year-old from Australia has played in the past three Presidents Cups and is currently No. 18 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Cliff Schrock
Team Connecticut, Great River's Ben James capture New England Junior Amateur in weather-shortened event

The Following is a Press Release from Mass Golf--

LONGMEADOW, Mass. -– Connecticut entered the final day of the 2018 New England Golf Association Junior Invitational owning a 17-stroke lead, but even a final push from the second-place Massachusetts team wasn’t enough to overcome Mother Nature, as heavy downpours lasting nearly an hour led to the suspension of play and the eventual cancellation of Tuesday’s final round at Longmeadow Country Club. As a result, Monday’s 36-hole round scores were used to determine this year’s champion in both the team and individual standings.
 
For the first time since 2012, the team from the Connecticut State Golf Association was crowned champions, finishing with a two-round score of 11-over 711 in the best five-of-seven scoring format. With the victory, Team Connecticut picked up its record 16th title since the tournament began in 1967.
 
Led by medalist Ben James (Great River G.C.) (photo of him by Dave Colt on home page), who finished the 36-hole round at two-under 138, Team Connecticut saw four of its five scorers place among the top-10 on the individual board, including tournament runner-up Chris Fosdick (CT PGA Junior Golf Association), T-3 finisher Jackson Fretty (Greenwich C.C.) and T-10 finisher Connor Belcastro (CSGA Club for Schools). Matthew Doyle, of Madison C.C., placed 14th at seven-over 147 in two rounds to finalize the scores for the Constitution State squad.
 
“It means a lot for me. This is a big tournament for my teammates and I to win,” said James Tuesday afternoon following the cancellation of Round 3 that ultimately set up the victory.
 
After advancing to the U.S. Junior Amateur Round of 32 and winning the Northern Junior, the Hampden Hall Country Day School freshman James said this victory stands out because of the top talent that he had to face from each of the six New England states.
 
With his victory, James hopes this will propel him to continued success as his summer play continues ahead of his high school golf season, adding, “It does help because I have momentum right now so keeping that, working hard and hopefully, if I do all that, I can keep winning.”
 
Behind Connecticut on the leaderboard, Team Massachusetts placed second at 28-over 728, six strokes ahead of third-place Vermont. The Bay State squad, led by an afternoon charge from Jack Tobin (Marlborough C.C.) and his two-under 68 performance that saw him place T-3 overall. New Hampshire’s Sam Barton (5th), Rhode Island’s Colin Sutyla (T-6) and Sam Taraian (T-10) and the trio of Vermont golfers in Logan Broyles, Bryson Richards and Jared Nelson finished out the top-10 scorers.  For more information, visit NEGAGolf.org

 

Cliff Schrock
Southbury's VanDerLaan shatters Connecticut Open record to defeat Swift by two shots

HAMDEN, Conn. - You don’t break the tournament record in an event in its 84th year unless you have something special going on in not only your play but composure.

Twice in today’s third and final round of the Connecticut Open at New Haven Country Club, the 36-hole leader by one shot, John VanDerLaan of Southbury, demonstrated with his remarks he had the calm composure that he combined with a brilliant all-around game to win by two shots over Cj Swift, who plays out of Great River Golf Club in Milford.

John VanDerLaan holes out a five-foot putt on No. 15 at New Haven CC for a birdie that gave him a one-shot lead, which he held on to win the Connecticut Open.

John VanDerLaan holes out a five-foot putt on No. 15 at New Haven CC for a birdie that gave him a one-shot lead, which he held on to win the Connecticut Open.

When the third-positioned player, 2016 champion Adam Rainaud, failed to make a charge Wednesday, the outcome was a two-man battle between VanDerLaan and Swift. When VanDerLaan holed what he called “a [birdie] putt you don’t expect to make” on No. 3—a 30- to 40-footer—he kidded to his caddie, “looked like a 3 the whole way.” That gave him a two-shot lead on Swift, and VanDerLaan made it three with another unexpected birdie on No. 5.

Swift made four birdies in a span of six holes in the middle of his round to get to 15 under par and tie VanDerLaan for the lead. VanDerLaan had bogeyed No. 7 but birdied eight and 12 and made a critical par save on 13 to also stand at 15.

VanDerLaan moved ahead on the 382-yard 15th. He hit a 3-wood for position off the tee, but still found the right rough, 95 yards from a front-left pin location. But he played a sand wedge beautifully under high tree limbs to leave himself a five-footer, which caught an edge of the cup and circled in. “That’s why the hole is round,” he joked as he walked off the green. After his victory he was proud of his strategy on the hole. “It was downwind so I went with 3-wood, but still missed the fairway. I knew if I landed my second shot short right it would kick toward the hole. It came off perfectly. It was huge to take the lead there.”

Connecticut Open champ VanDerLaan.

Connecticut Open champ VanDerLaan.

VanDerLaan, 22, preserved his lead with routine pars on 16 and 17, keeping him one shot ahead on the 575-yard, par-5 18th. The leader drove into the right rough and had to lay up, giving himself an 80-yard third. Swift was in the fairway, but faded his fairway wood shot into the tall fescue. After nearly not being able to find the ball, it was found around 70 yards from the hole. Swift made a sensational hack out of the rough to reach the green, but was left with a 35-foot speedy sidewinder. VanDerLaan was on the green about 20 feet under the hole. Swift went for a miracle putt but ran the ball by about 12 feet and missed the par putt, letting the air out of the balloon of a close battle the entire back nine. VanDerLaan two-putted to finish a round of 66 and a three-day total of 194, shattering the event’s 54-hole record of 200 (the championship changed from 72 holes to 54 in 1951). He won by two over Swift, who also beat the old record but in a runner-up performance.

Saying New Haven Country Club is one of his favorite courses in the state, VanDerLaan said he was excited to see all his hard work paying off with his first pro win. “I had a blast this week. This was a lot of fun. It is nice to see hard work pay off,” VanDerLaan said, adding he didn’t feel he played as well as the first two rounds. “You couldn’t let up on a single shot. Cj had a great tournament. He really battled and is an incredible player. He had a slow start and I was okay early. My hat is off to him.”

This was Swift’s best finish in the Connecticut Open; he had a final-round 67. He said his putting was “rock solid,” but he said his iron play was not as good as on Tuesday. “I was nervous,” he said. “I felt the pressure coming in. This is your state open, something you dream about winning. I’ll just have to try next year.

“I thought 16 under was the number to get to and it was. John hit fairways and greens and was solid with his putting.”

Rainaud had a 71 with a birdie on 18 to finish in third at eight-under-par 202.

The two top finishers will battle on in the near future at different venues. VanDerLaan, who graduated from Pomperaug, won the New England Amateur in 2014 and the Connecticut Amateur in 2012, will play more Northeast events: the Maine Open, Rhode Island Open and Providence Open. Swift, 26, is originally from Hinsdale, Ill., attended Marquette, and has played on the Latinoamerica tour. He will play in a Met Open qualifier, Florida mini-tour events and Qualifying School.

The championship is administered by the Connecticut State Golf Association. For a full listing of scores, go to: www.golfgenius.com/pages/1560295.

 

 

 

Cliff Schrock
Watson wins third Travelers as Casey lets big lead slip away

It’s not likely Paul Casey is a pigeon to any golfer, but his second runner-up finish in four years Sunday to Bubba Watson at The Travelers Championship brings to mind some of golf’s pairings where one player seemed to have the upper hand over another.

Julius Boros tweaked Arnold Palmer’s nose by calling him his pigeon. Boros finished ahead of Arnie in the 1963 U.S. Open playoff, edged him at the 1968 PGA and beat him in a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match. But Palmer had his moments with "Julie," including a month after the ’63 loss he beat Boros and Jack Nicklaus in a Western Open playoff. Nicklaus himself seemed to get bested by Lee Trevino and Tom Watson in many key battles. Casey will certainly recognize that Watson went out and won in Sunday’s final round, shooting a 63 to win by three over Casey, Beau Hossler, Stewart Cink (who had the round of the day with a 62) and J.B. Holmes. But this will hurt. Casey led by four going into the fourth round, but he was the only player of the top-37 finishers who shot over par Sunday. On a course such as TPC River Highlands, where every day seems to produce one or two 62s or 63s, it’s easy for someone to come flying from in back of the lead pack to surge ahead as Watson did. While Casey got off to a beautiful start with a birdie on No. 1, he gave it back with a bogey on five and then ran off consecutive pars to remain stuck at 16 under par until sloppy bogey-bogey scoring on 16 and 17. That came after Watson had birdied 18 to go one ahead; he hit a spectacular second shot with a wedge to a couple feet.

After hitting every green in regulation Saturday, Casey only hit 10 on Sunday and his swing felt off from the first hole on, even with making birdie. “There was a lot of fight in there,” he said. “I fought my golf swing all day.  So you can see coming down the last couple of holes, hitting the pull 8-iron on 16, and the flair right on 17 just about summed it up.  Yeah, incredibly frustrating. It was always going to be a difficult day because of the different wind direction, I thought for, someone to go particularly low.  And you’ve got to give credit to Bubba, 63; is that right?  That was a great score.  But, obviously, I’ll go away, analyze this, look at it and see what we can do better in the future.”

Casey said he would definitely feel he let the tournament slip away. “It’s more me,” he said. “I didn’t get it taken care of today. Credit to his great play.  I would have loved to won outright or at least have another go at him in a playoff would have been nice.  But not to be.”

Watson trailed by six going into Sunday, and publicly was saying he still had a shot. After he became a three-time winner—only trailing four-time champ Billy Casper—he admitted to a bit of hyperbole. “So you have to trick yourself into believing it, right?” he said. “You always have to tell yourself and believe it…I made a putt on 12. I made a nice one on 13. Then the weather signs went up. When the weather signs go up, that means the storm is coming, the wind’s going to pick up, the weather’s going to change, and it’s going to make it tougher. So when I fist pumped on 15, that’s when I thought I had a shot at it, because I knew the weather. The wind started picking up, so I had three tough holes, but they had more holes. So that’s where I really started believing. That’s why I fist pumped there, because I knew with the weather signs up, it was fixing to get difficult or it could get difficult.”

Watson birdied 5, 6 and 9 with a bogey on 8 on the front, then had a spectacular 30 on the way in with birdies on 10, 12, 13, 15 and 18. By winning Watson became the lone three-time winner on tour this year.

 

Cliff Schrock
Relaxed, strategic Casey takes command after Round 3 at Travelers

CROMWELL, Conn. – After the second round of the Travelers Championship on Friday at TPC River Highlands, Paul Casey looked as relaxed and as comfortable as you’d expect for someone who had just gone 65-67 to trail halfway leader Brian Harman by two. Talking with the media outside the scorer’s trailer, Casey said, “If I string it all together and pick the ball-striking up a little bit, there’s no reason why there can’t be two more low numbers.”

Casey was not only relaxed and comfortable, but prophetic. In Saturday’s third round he got Low Round No. 1. Casey hit every green in regulation in shooting an eight-under-par 62 to take a strong four-shot lead at 16 under par. Russell Henley is in second, and Harman, J.B. Holmes and Anirban Lahiri are five behind.

Travelers tee marker.jpg

In his bogey-free round, Casey had birdies at 2 and 3, 8 and 9, 13, a 23-foot eagle putt on 15, and nearly holed out for eagle on 18 but settling for birdie.

It was an unusually cool, cloudy day for summer, ideal for scoring and Casey wasn’t the only one who benefited. All but two players in the top 20 by the end of the day shot under par.

Casey has come close before at The Travelers, but is looking very good to get the job done this year. “Johnny, my caddie, and I, we always have a good plan around here,” Casey said. “It’s always a golf course I’ve felt comfortable on.  And today was just one of those days where I didn’t really miss a shot, and if we did, we missed it in the right place.

“The lines on the putts were popping out for me, and the hole looked to be reasonable size, bigger than normal, and just a real joy. Good golfing conditions as well. I quite liked the sort of grayness…It was just one of those days, so very, very happy, and glad to be in the lead.  It’s a championship I’d really like to win having gotten close a couple years ago…It’s one I feel like I can win, and I’m really happy to be in the position I’m in.”

More than anything, Casey likes how he has strategized his way around the course. “I play this golf course, and I feel like I execute it really well. It’s a great strategy with Johnny and myself. I’m not the longest guy in the field, but…it’s a golf course which is receptive to all styles of game..”

Sunday is expected to be warmer and more humid with a possible pop-up thunderstorm. Casey and Henley will go off at 2 p.m., preceded by Holmes and Lahiri at 1:50. Since River Highlands is where Jim Furyk shot the PGA Tour’s only 58, there is likelihood for a theatrical run from someone well back. That could include five players at 10 under, including Bubba Watson (67 Saturday), Jason Day (66) and Bryson DeChambeau (68). Rory McIlroy at 8 under after a 69 seems to be too much in arrears, but not as badly as Justin Thomas (70) at 5 under, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka (69) at 4 and defending champion Jordan Spieth (71) at 3 under.

To get things done Sunday, Casey already is in a good frame of mind, with a back injury out of mind and saying how he feels comfortable at the event and that’s an important key. “If you don’t like playing a tournament, you’re not going to play well because you don’t want to be there. And this is just a good vibe all the way around.”

Casey was asked what must he do to keep the momentum, the good vibe, going and he brought in a local favorite, Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue. “I don’t know,” he said, “eat barbecue again like I did last night.  I don’t know. I’m in a good spot mentally and physically, so I’m not overly worried. That doesn’t mean I know the outcome of tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it more than anything else. Things will be different. They always are. That’s the thing. You get pin positions that suit your eye, and the greens, the lines were popping out for me. You just hope that continues tomorrow.”

Cliff Schrock
The U.S. Open effect at The Travelers' halfway point as Harman leads

CROMWELL, Conn. – I liked science and biology in school but only to have the peripheral facts and phenomena explained to me. I left dissecting frogs to others.

That background will set you up for my unscientific study of Round 2 of the Travelers Championship today at TPC River Highlands. In short, my theory is if you played the U.S. Open the week before a tour event, the Travelers specifically, you have a better than 50-50 chance of making the cut and, most encouraging, of contending.

A common thread all week has been a focus on how players who roughed it out at Shinnecock Hills last week in green conditions that received a lot of criticism, along with the usual U.S. Open mischief, would do on a shorter and more forgiving River Highlands course.

Travelers halfway leader Brian Harman is a case in point of how making the cut and contending at the National Open gets your game in excellent shape at your next event. He tied for 36th at Shinnecock but leads by one at the Travelers at 10 under par following a four-under 66 Friday in ideal scoring weather. Matt Jones, Russell Henley and Zach Johnson are tied for second, and guess what, they all played at Shinnecock. At eight under are Beau Hossler, Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey, and yes, the latter two were at Shinny.

The trend continues: the three at seven under, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Lanto Griffin, all played the U.S. Open and all three missed the cut but here they are tied for eighth.

In summary, 50 players who were at Shinnecock are playing The Travelers. Half of them missed the cut on Long Island, but 15 of them are playing the weekend at Cromwell. Of the 25 who made the cut, 13 made the cut at The Travelers and five others missed the cut, which came at two under, by two shots or less.

Sure, it’s unscientific, and a guy who missed the cut at the U.S. Open might just be on a slide and those who made both cuts on a roll. The reasons for and against believing you are more likely to do better the week after you played the U.S. Open are ripe for dissection, but that would require analyzing each player on a case by case basis and their aptitude for how they deal with tough conditions. Perhaps some players, such as tenacious Patrick Reed, only excel in tougher conditions. He, Xander Schauffele and Webb Simpson were in the top 10 at Shinnecock but are down the road this week. Interestingly, on Wednesday Reed had talked about how he found Shinnecock fun in its own way and that River Highlands would be fun in its own way. “This week it’s guns blazing,” he said. “Everyone is going to be firing at flags…and last week it was more like, all right, let’s try to survive the week.”

McIlroy had also said before the first round that there is just a nice familiarity that comes with the event after a major. “I think that’s why this tournament works so well,” he said, “because it is directly after a week like last week and guys can get back into a normal routine, whether it’s seeing good golf shots being rewarded or putting some red numbers on the board, that sort of stuff. It just gets you back into a nice routine, and obviously it makes you feel a bit better about yourself when you’re shooting some under-par scores.”

The player who was in his own category, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, could have withdrawn or dogged it through two rounds, but he hung in there and made the weekend at three under par.

No matter whether my theory holds water, The Travelers will have a great group of 74 golfers on the weekend. Losing Reed was the biggest hit to a very strong field, with the rest of the main attractions still around. That includes defending champion Jordan Spieth, who backed up a 63 with a 73 Friday, which featured an 8 on the par-5 13th.

Scene of the Day: Whenever a tour player makes contact with a young fan, it makes an indelible memory. Two boys waiting at the back of the ninth green along the roped-off area that allows players to get to carts for transportation to the scorer’s building had a special day when Sam Saunders came through. Saunders had started with 72 in Round 1 and for a time looked like he was going to have a hard time getting to two under, but he played his back nine (the front nine) in 31, birdieing the ninth hole to make the cut on the number.

As he walked past the two boys, he handed one his ball and the other his glove. The looks on their faces were like they were halfway to the next Christmas, which we are. When someone asked them if they knew who that golfer was, the glove recipient said, “Yes, Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson.” It’s hard to imagine boys that could be more excited, unless it was from the site of their mother coming with the hot dogs right after the big moment.

Cliff Schrock
Feeling a reprieve from U.S. Open life, Spieth, Johnson lead with 63

CROMWELL, Conn. – Like liberated golf soldiers set loose from the hostile clutches of the USGA, the tour players at The Travelers Championship flew freely with birdies and eagles in Round 1 Thursday at TPC River Highlands.

Leading the charge, not surprisingly, were major champions who’d had varying levels of survival at the torturous test known as Shinnecock Hills last week in the U.S. Open. Multi-major winners Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth shot seven-under-par 63s, Johnson in the a.m. and Spieth the afternoon on the 6,841-yard course. They were one ahead of Peter Malnati, Brian Harman and Rory McIlroy, he of four major titles. At 65 were Matt Jones, Paul Casey and Beau Hossler. Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Jason Day were among 14 golfers at 66. Patrick Reed shot 72.

McIlroy would have been at 63 if not for his lone bogey of the day on the par-4 18th, where he played sloppy from his second shot in. He had birdied Nos. 1, 2, 4, 6, and 13 to 15 before the final-hole blemish.

“I played really well today,” he said. “I feel like the work that I did over the weekend sort of started to pay off already.  It was nice to see the shots I was playing right there.  Being able to work the ball both ways was something I wasn't quite as comfortable doing last week. Obviously, you never want to miss a cut in a major, but it might have been a blessing in disguise for the rest of the year.”

This is the 12th consecutive year The Travelers has backed up the U.S. Open, and the friendly fairways of River Highlands allow those who play both events to sow their oats again with milder challenges that don’t include burned-out greens and monster rough. Fifty players who played at Shinnecock are at The Travelers this week. Johnson had tied for 12th, while Spieth and McIlroy missed the cut. Harman had tied for 36th.

Johnson was impressive with an outgoing 33, but went off with six straight birdies on 11 to 16 before making bogey on 17. When you’re on a birdie streak, he said, you both stay in the moment and get excited. “That felt great,” he said. “The ever-competitor in me felt like it could have been more. I actually lipped out my chip on 10, lipped out for eagle on 13. So I’m saying all that, but yet I made some putts and hit quality shots.”

Spieth, the defending champion, had said that he was upset that he didn’t make the weekend on Long Island because, as Tommy Fleetwood showed, a low score from someone back in the pack could have taken the title. Spieth went out in four under Thursday, which included another hole-out from a bunker, as he did in winning last year, this time for eagle-3 on No. 5. He added four more birdies on the back and had his lone bogey when he drove into the water on the short par-4 15th. His stat sheet showed he hit 12 of 14 fairways, 15 greens in regulation and had 26 putts.

Spieth didn’t want to put too much emphasis on one round, however. “I wouldn’t say it was big or necessary or anything,” he said. “I’ve been sticking to the process. I’ve been very positive about making progress from how I got pretty off earlier this year. So it’s good to see a good score. Those are obviously nice to see, but still a long way to go. It’s Round 1. Just glad.  The first rounds have been kind of detrimental to me, so it’s nice to be in the thick of things.”

The main U.S. Open survivor, champion Brooks Koepka, to his credit kept his Travelers commitment and played, but he had been given time off from the Wednesday pro-am and did not need to do a pre-tournament media interview. He only arrived late Wednesday afternoon and went to the range for a short session. He said he never considered withdrawing. “No, this was always on the schedule,” he said. “I had three months off in the beginning of the season, so this was a place we wanted to come. I knew I was going to play here. I committed to coming, so I’m not going to back out.”

Koepka began on the back nine in the morning draw and started strong with birdies on 11 to 14. On his back nine, however, he predictably hit a wall. He birdied Nos. 2 and 6, but bogeyed 4, 5, 7 and 9. The ninth was most telling as he three-putted a birdie putt of six feet, but a 31-37—68 was not bad for what he had gone through to get to Cromwell. He admitted his focus and attention weren’t sharp toward the end.

“I just ran out of gas,” he said. “I’m exhausted mentally. I’m excited to go home and nap. I tried to get some rest when I was back home, but we got home at about 4:30, fell asleep by 4:45, and I woke up, [neighbor] Dustin [Johnson] was in my living room at 8 o’clock. He came over on the boat to say hi. So it was not as much rest as I would have liked. But it just feels good to be back out playing. I’m still playing well, so I’m not too worried about today.”

 

Cliff Schrock
The Travelers pro-am celebrity event caters to its regional base

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Befitting its small-market status, The Travelers Championship’s approach to celebrity golf is to appeal to its regional base. By and large, every celebrity player in today’s Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am at TPC River Highlands is associated with the region, from Boston to New York, but primarily UConn territory. That ensures the greatest chance for spectator interest and attendance.

Those with UConn tie-ins in the Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am are coaching legend Jim Calhoun, football coach Randy Edsall, NBA great Ray Allen, NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, basketball hall of fame coach Chris Dailey, and hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh (Geno Auriemma usually plays). There is Chris Berman from nearby Bristol and ESPN. Nick Bonino is a Hartford native and center for the Nashville Predators who attended Boston University before entering the NHL in 2007. Javier Colon is a Connecticut native who won the inaugural season of NBC’s “The Voice” in 2011. Mike Gorman is an Emmy Award-winning commentator who has been the television broadcaster for the Boston Celtics for more than 30 years. Nancy Stevens recently completed her 28th season as UConn field hockey coach.

Also here is actor/comedian George Lopez, actor Dane DeHaan, former NFL quarterback and TV/radio host Boomer Esiason, singer/actor Christopher Jackson, Jets wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, and CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell.

The heritage of The Travelers having a celebrity field goes back several decades. The event started in 1952 as the Insurance City Open but in all has had eight names. It was the ICO for 15 years, then the Greater Hartford Open Invitational (six), Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open (12), Canon Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open (four), Canon Greater Hartford Open (14), Greater Hartford Open (one), Buick Championship (three) and now the 12th year as the Travelers. Each year as the Travelers has followed the playing of the U.S. Open.

The heyday of The Travelers celebrity pro-am, of course, was when Sammy Davis Jr. could bring in his Hollywood pals, such as Jackie Gleason, to entertain and wow the crowd. Whether that was more exciting than having regional celebs is a matter of choice, but I favor the regional group because of how it makes the entire event down to earth, and we can use a lot of that feeling in our lives.

The years when tour events were known by their location—Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Colonial, Hartford—are long gone, swallowed up by corporate titles to aid in sponsor dollars. As a traditionalist, I feel it’s a shame Hartford isn’t in the tournament’s title—I could still call it Hartford if I wanted to—but the old titles aren’t coming back. According to the PGA Tour media guide, of the non-major tour events on this year’s schedule, the San Diego/Farmers Insurance Open leads with the most titles at 13. Others over the years with multiple titles are the Shell Houston Open and Valero Open with 11 each, the Zurich Classic with 10 and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, FedEx St. Jude Classic, the BMW Championship, the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola and the RBC Heritage with nine each. The tour event with the longest span using its current name is the Honda Classic, so named since 1984. Yet it’s on its sixth name since starting in 1972 as Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic.

Davis was one of many celebrities who had their names in the tournament title. The celebrity pro-am, invented by Bing Crosby at his Pebble Beach clambake, is long past its heyday. Tour events, especially at the start of the year, were huge fan favorites when they involved the major golfing celebs of the day. Leading the way were the celebrity hosts: Crosby, Davis, Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason, Glen Campbell, Ed McMahon, and Danny Thomas.

With tour events headed by that group, the celebrities brought in for the pro-am action had a depth and heft that made you take notice, particularly the acting and musical performers. The celebrity hosts gradually got older, however, and faded and were replaced by, well, often nobody but there was Justin Timberlake, George Lopez and Clint Eastwood, but they didn’t really stick around or take full ownership. The tour schedule has been absent of any celebrity host in an event title for some time.

One of the purposes of a celebrity event is to get some buzz going for the main event Thursday through Sunday, and that is always the case at the Travelers. Did celebrity pro-ams have more firepower “back in the day?” Yes, probably. But the scenario at the Travelers indicates the health of the celebrity show is going strong. Fans gather around the first tee to see the groups tee off, starting at noon, and at a smaller market location like the Travelers, the cheers have the sound of a pep rally. Fans appreciate their state heroes and enjoy watching them in an arena far removed from their normal locale. And the fact the spectators can get up close to people they usually see from afar can’t be discounted as a huge reason the celebrity pro-am is so popular and always will be.

Cliff Schrock
The Travelers: Friendly course, confines ease players out of U.S. Open drudgery

CROMWELL, Conn. -- In playing a game that’s incredibly difficult, golfers can have wild mood swings. Oddly, we can feel sheepish if the game is too easy. It’s the nature of the golfer to feel we must continually suffer, only to experience a respite when we hit that great shot at the end of a round “to make us come back again.” Perhaps the desire to excel in tough conditions is the reason so many golfers choose to play from a set of tees that’s too difficult for their abilities. That makes us mad at the game for being too hard, but if we could just be satisfied with playing from a shorter set of tees we’d end up in a happier state of mind.

The equivalent for the tour player is no more obvious than the week after a major championship. Tour courses are generally toughened up to be a strong challenge to the professional player, but the toughest courses are those played at a major. Most other tour courses still can’t quite keep the expert player in check, thus we have winning scores under par, sometimes ludicrously low.

The week at a major certainly causes a pro to suffer hardship. The “cure for what ails” a player who puts up with tough playing conditions and challenges is to get back to a tour event that is more inviting, both in ease of play and a cozier atmosphere.

Which brings us to this week’s Travelers Championship. Professional golfers at The Travelers, especially those who made the short trip across Long Island Sound and into central Connecticut from torturous Shinnecock Hills, know exactly what will cure what’s ailing them after the hard playing conditions they faced in the U.S. Open: The friendly Tournament Players Club River Highlands and its award-winning atmosphere.

This week marks the 12th straight year The Travelers is being held the week after the U.S. Open and it’s sure to be the 12th consecutive time the Travelers field will experience the euphoria of making many birdies, few bogeys, and playing a bit stress free. The tournament has done very well as the backup event to the National Open. Pay particular attention to the following 50 players at River Highlands. They played at Shinnecock and it will be interesting to see if they all play well as a sort of bounceback from playing a tougher layout than what they'll see in Cromwell: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Russell Knox, Marc Leishman, Bryson DeChambeau, Aaron Baddeley, Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay, Paul Casey, Emiliano Grillo, Adam Hadwin, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Charley Hoffman, Mackenzie Hughes, Satoshi Kodaira, Graeme McDowell, Pat Perez, Ted Potter Jr., Brandt Snedeker, Kyle Stanley, Brendan Steele, Brian Stuard, Jhonattan Vegas, Jim Furyk, Doug Ghim, Dylan Meyer, Bill Haas, Chez Reavie, Keegan Bradley, Luke List, Ollie Schniederjans, Patrick Rodgers, Harold Varner III, Scott Stallings, Richy Werenski, Chesson Hadley, Trey Mullinax, Matt Jones, Tyler Duncan and Lanto Griffin. U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka is also playing, but he might be the only one who fares worse at Cromwell!

The contrast in course severity is quite evident in the 36-hole cut. Counting Shinnecock last week, the average cut line at the U.S. Open the last dozen years has been six over par. At the last 11 Travelers, the cut line has been seven shots lower at one under par.

The winning score, by and large, at the National Open in the last 12 years has been around even par or a little under. I consider three winning scores of 16, 16 and 9 under par during those years aberrations, so I don’t factor those in. The 2007 to 2017 average winning score at The Travelers is 264.4, nearly 16 under par.

When you add in the appreciative galleries and the tournament’s historical place on tour, it makes sense that the Travelers field has been improving steadily in quality. Marquee players are finding The Travelers a nice stop after the U.S. Open to unwind, decompress and still compete hard enough to win the tournament. It is no wonder then that, under the leadership of tournament director Nathan Grube and the Travelers group, the event was named PGA Tour Tournament of the Year in 2017.

 

Cliff Schrock
Chris Paul, Aaron Rodgers will host the State Farm Showdown golf event at Mohegan Sun Golf Club

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Mohegan Sun has always produced innovative entertainment, and they have another one going with an event that will pit NFL and NBA stars against each other in a first-of-its-kind charity golf tournament on June 27-28.

A press release stated: Turner Sports and CAA Sports have partnered to create a two-day charity golf tournament, hosted by superstars Chris Paul of the NBA and Aaron Rodgers of the NFL, and set to take place at Mohegan Sun Golf Club starting Wednesday, June 27th. “The State Farm Showdown” is open to the public, with tickets on sale now, and will feature NBA stars past and present facing off against NFL greats, all to benefit the players’ charities of choice.  The action starts at 10 a.m. June 27 and 11 a.m. June 28.

Turner Sports will provide multimedia coverage of the charity golf tournament, with Bleacher Report offering access to the NFL and NBA icons participating in the event through a variety of content offerings and top moments shared across its social platforms.  Additionally, TNT will televise a one-hour, all-access show at 8 p.m., Friday, August 10, Eastern time.

“I couldn’t be more excited for ‘The Showdown’ this summer,” said Rodgers.  “While the NFL and NBA are home to many of the greatest athletes in the world, a golf course is an entirely different battlefield. I am extremely passionate about golf and look forward to assembling a team of the NFL’s top golfers to determine, once and for all, which league is truly top on the links.”

“Golf is a favorite sport of mine and I’m thrilled to be hosting this unique tournament where NBA and NFL athletes will trade the court and field for the green,” said Paul. “Competitiveness is essential in our respective sports and I look forward to competing alongside and against the best athletes while raising money for charity.”

“The State Farm Neighborhood of Good invites people to take action by turning caring into doing. We are proud to be working with Aaron Rodgers and Chris Paul as they, along with their Showdown teammates, give back to causes they care most about,” said Patty Morris, Brand Content Director, State Farm. “We hope people watching will take action and give back to causes they care about in their own communities.”

Mohegan Sun Golf Club, which was recently named one of the “best courses in New England” by Golfweek, is thrilled to host the star-studded affair at the beautiful Baltic, Conn., shampionship golf course. The first-of-its-kind charity golf tournament will feature a two-day competition, hosted by Paul and Rodgers and will follow a common international team format, with a group of current and past NFL greats going up against NBA all-stars and legends.

“To have two of the most talented and prominent professional athletes in the world organize a special golf tournament to benefit charities, be featured across Turner Sports’ platforms, and to have it all take place at Mohegan Sun Golf Club, is pretty special,” said Ray Pineault, President & General Manager of Mohegan Sun.  “We’re very excited for the tournament and to see whether the NBA or NFL can put up a lower score at Mohegan Sun Golf Club.”

Tickets for “The State Farm Showdown” are available now at Ticketmaster.com and through 800-745-3000, along with the Mohegan Sun Box Office, subject to availability.  General admission is $20 on individual days and $30 for a two-day package. There are also “Triple Tee” VIP passes available, starting at $150 for guests 21 and over. The VIP passes allow access to exclusive viewing areas as well as unlimited food and open bar at two locations at Mohegan Sun Golf Club.

Please note that there is no on-site public parking at Mohegan Sun Golf Club for this golf tournament. Guests that purchase tickets will be able to take a free shuttle from Mohegan Sun’s group hotel area at Sky Tower. The shuttle will leave from Mohegan Sun starting at 8:30am on June 27th and 9:30amon June 28th, and returning to Mohegan Sun from the golf course starting at 5:00pm. Per each paying adult, their ticket gives access to up to two people under 17 to join them on the shuttle and experience the golf tournament. More details are at mohegansun.com/showdown.html.

Confirmed players in “The State Farm Showdown”:

Ray Allen: Former UConn legend and top three-point shooter in NBA history whose career spanned the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. Allen has two NBA championship rings (2008 & 2013)

Larry Fitzgerald: Longtime Arizona Cardinals receiver, named to 11 Pro Bowls since being drafted third overall in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh. Caught two touchdown passes in Super Bowl XLIII

Dell Curry: Father of Stephen Curry and a 16-year NBA veteran, he averaged nearly 12 points per game and was a sharp-shooter who hit 40% from behind the three-point line during his career

Patrick Peterson: A teammate of Fitzgerald on the Cardinals, one of the NFL’s top cover corners. Named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons since entering the league as a first round pick in 2011

JR Smith: Former NBA champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 has also played with the New Orleans Hornets, Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. Tabbed Kia NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2013

Reggie Bush: Legendary USC running back and former NFL running back who ran for more than 1,000 yards for the Miami Dolphins in 2011 and crossed the mark again for the Detroit Lions in 2013

Kyle Korver: NBA All-Star in 2015 with the Atlanta Hawks, the veteran three-point marksman has also spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls and most recently the Cavaliers

Josh Scobee: Former NFL kicker played more than a decade with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Cliff Schrock
The Travelers celebrity field headlined by sharp-shooter and excellent golfer Ray Allen

HARTFORD, Conn. –  Basketball great Ray Allen is in the top handful of greatest shooters in history. He also plays a mean game of golf. The Travelers Championship announced Tuesday that Allen was among the commitments to the Wednesday, June 20, celebrity lineup for the 2018 Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am at TPC River Highlands.

Celebrities competing in the Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am include, in alphabetical order:

Ray Allen: A 10-time NBA All-Star after being named an All-American at UConn; won NBA titles with the Celtics (2008) and Heat (2013); and remains the NBA leader in career 3-pointers made.

Chris Berman is an ESPN broadcaster and has been named National Sportscaster of the Year six times while winning 10 Emmy Awards.

Nick Bonino is a center for the Nashville Predators who attended Boston University before entering the NHL in 2007. The Hartford native previously played for the Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, winning two Stanley Cup titles.

Jim Calhoun went 873-380 as a college basketball coach and won three NCAA titles at UConn. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Mike Cavanaugh became UConn men’s hockey coach in 2013, and recently finished his fifth season. He has led the Huskies to the Hockey East playoffs in each of the past four seasons, with the team advancing to the quarterfinals in 2017-18.

Javier Colon is a Connecticut native who won the inaugural season of NBC’s “The Voice” in 2011, has released four albums, and frequently appears on the show as a guest judge.

Chris Dailey has been the associate head women’s basketball coach at UConn since 1988, a span that has seen the Huskies win 11 national championships. She will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on June 9 as part of the Class of 2018.

Dane DeHaan is an actor and model best known for roles in popular movies such as “Chronicle,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Kill Your Darlings” and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

Randy Edsall is the head football coach at UConn who led the Huskies to the Fiesta Bowl in the 2010 season. He is about to start his 14th season, and has also coached for five seasons in the NFL.

Boomer Esiason played quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals during his 14-year NFL career. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, was named NFL MVP in 1988, and currently hosts the radio show Boomer & Gio on WFAN in New York.

Mike Gorman is an Emmy Award-winning commentator who has been the television broadcaster for the Boston Celtics for more than 30 years.

Christopher Jackson is a singer and actor who currently stars in the CBS drama “Bull” and played George Washington in the original cast of “Hamilton,” for which he earned a Tony Award nomination. He has also won a Grammy Award and an Emmy Award for his singing and songwriting.

Jermaine Kearse is a wide receiver for the New York Jets. He won a Super Bowl title in the 2013 season with the Seattle Seahawks, who drafted him in 2012.

George Lopez is a multi-talented actor who has had success in film, television and stand-up comedy. He is best known for his role in the show “George Lopez,” which ran on ABC for six seasons, as well as appearing in 21 movies such as “Valentine’s Day,” “Rio,” and more.

Norah O’Donnell has been the co-host of “CBS This Morning” since 2012 and contributes to “60 Minutes.” She is an award-winning journalist who has covered many of the biggest national news stories during her career.

Dan Orlovsky spent 12 seasons in the NFL as a quarterback with the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and is UConn’s career leader in passing yards and touchdowns.

Nancy Stevens is recognized as one of the top collegiate field hockey coaches in the nation with a record of 662-181-24 and a .777 winning percentage. She recently completed her 28th season at UConn, and helped the Huskies to national championships in 2013, 2014 and 2017.

Tim Wakefield was a knuckleball pitcher who won 200 games in a 19-year MLB career. He spent 17 of those seasons with the Red Sox, and won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.

“The group of stars who will be participating in the Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am this year will make for a uniquely fun experience for our fans,” said Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube. “It continues to be one of the highlights of tournament week, and is a key piece in our commitment to offer something for everybody while generating money for charity.”

The Travelers Championship takes place June 21-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. Tickets are on sale now at www.TravelersChampionship.com. This year’s field includes headliners defending champion Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau, Charley Hoffman, Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk.

Cliff Schrock
Bunnell girls golf team heads into home stretch of long season

After a tedious and frustrating start to its season, the Bunnell High School girls golf team of Stratford has finally passed into the second half of its season. Now there is roughly 10 days remaining to a season full of postponements, little practice and limited players and victories.

The Lady Bulldogs' most recent event was a loss on May 16 to Joel Barlow in a home match at Oronoque Country Club in Stratford, played in rain and soggy conditions. Prior to that on May 14 was a loss to Notre Dame of Fairfield on the Red Course at Fairchild-Wheeler.

There is a potential for four opponents during the week of May 21. The South-West Conference tournament will be May 29 at Brownson Country Club in Shelton.

Statistically, junior Danka Hlinka leads the team with having completed 81 of the 99 holes played. She also has the lowest scoring average with 63.1, followed by senior Debra Caminade (74.0), senior Kellie Taylor (74.8), and junior Sasha Kalson (78.2).

In a loss May 8 at Brookfield, the Lady Bulldogs played their ninth of 16 matches. Horrific spring weather had forced the team to move many matches to the back end of the schedule, and now they are at the final stage of a scheduled seven matches in 11 days.

In the loss to Brookfield at Sunset Hill Golf Course, senior Debra Caminade, in just her seventh week as a golfer, had a personal best of 67. Junior Danka Hlinka led the team with a 59 and senior Kellie Taylor had a 71. For the season, Hlinka has a 63.1 scoring average to lead the team. She was on her average of 63 on May 9 in a loss to Immaculate, 251-299, at Oronoque Country Club, front nine, par 36. Sasha Kalson had 77 and Kellie Taylor 78 for Bunnell, which had to take a maximum score of 81 for its team total because it had only three players.

A scheduled match May 10 versus Stratford had to be moved to May 23, giving Bunnell three matches the week of May 14 and two match dates but three opponents the week of May 21. The Bunnell results to date include:

April 9, MATCH 1, Richter Park: Immaculate-Danbury High School 279, Bunnell High School 302

April 18, MATCH 2, Oronoque: Masuk 212, Bunnell 296

April 23, MATCH 3, Oronoque: Notre Dame-Fairfield 244, Bunnell 297

April 26, MATCH 4, Redding CC: Joel Barlow 221, Bunnell 303

April 30, MATCH 5, Mill River: Bunnell 289, Stratford 308

May 1, MATCH 6, Oronoque: Weston 218, Bunnell 276

May 2, MATCH 7, Rock Ridge CC: Newtown 208, Bunnell 286

May 7, MATCH 8, Whitney Farms: Masuk 220, Bunnell 304

May 8, MATCH 9, Sunset Hill: Brookfield 211, Bunnell 276.

May 9, MATCH 10, Oronoque: Immaculate-Danbury 251, Bunnell 299. Bunnell's record: 1-9.

Cliff Schrock
Spieth announces return to Travelers Championship to defend title; Day "in"

Will "The Leap" be reprised in some fashion at TPC River Highlands? It was announced Tuesday May 8 that Jordan Spieth, the 2017 Travelers Championship winner, has committed to play in this year's event on June 21-24.

The good news continued on May 15 when Jason Day, a 12-time winner on the PGA TOUR and No. 7-ranked player in the world,  committed to play in the 2018 tournament. “Adding Jason to our field is fantastic news for the tournament and our fans,” said Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube. “Jason is one of the world’s best players, so having him return to TPC River Highlands reflects our mission of bringing the world’s greatest golfers to Connecticut every year.”

Spieth won in memorable fashion in a playoff with Daniel Berger when he holed out a bunker shot on 18, which set off a chest-bumping celebration with his caddie, Michael Greller.

Tournament staff said in a press announcement:

Spieth’s win at TPC River Highlands came in his Travelers Championship debut. He led wire to wire, finishing at 12-under-par with rounds of 63-69-66-70. His even-par final round allowed Berger to catch him after 72 holes, but Spieth was able to hold on in the playoff.

“We’re excited that Jordan has decided to come back to defend his title,” said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Travelers. “Watching the playoff bunker shot and seeing the crowd erupt still gives me chills. Jordan is an amazing player, and we’re all looking forward to seeing what he’ll do this year against some strong competition.”

Spieth, a 24-year-old from Dallas, followed his win at the Travelers Championship with a victory at the 2017 British Open. That gave him three major championships; Spieth previously won the Masters and the U.S. Open in 2015. He will attempt to complete the career grand slam at this year’s PGA Championship.

With 11 PGA TOUR victories in his career, Spieth has been one of the world’s best players since he turned professional in 2012. He was named PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year in 2013, then won the PGA TOUR’s Player of the Year honors in 2015, when he won five tournaments, plus the FedExCup title. Spieth has held the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for 26 weeks, and is currently ranked No. 4.

Spieth joins a number of players who have already committed to the Travelers Championship, including Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, Charley Hoffman, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk. For more information on this year’s tournament, visit www.TravelersChampionship.com.

Cliff Schrock
Bunnell plays intown rival Stratford in girls golf match; plays busy week of 3 matches

The icy spring weather kept its grip on the Connecticut region to close out the month of April as Stratford's two high schools played a girls golf match on Monday April 30 at Mill River Country Club.

It was the first of two matches between the two teams this spring. The result was Bunnell 289, Stratford 308 on Mill River's par-38 front nine. Bunnell, which has just a four-player roster, had scores from Danka Hlinka 57, Debra Caminade 69, Kellie Taylor 78, and Sasha Kalson 85. Stratford's six players were Jennifer Melo 75, Marissa Cantiello 77, Stacy Medina 78, Melissa Wilson 78, Chloe Pappas 78, and Kayla Simon 85. Freshman Ciara Smith was a noncompeting participant.

Stratford golfers: Stratford High and Bunnell played a match on April 30 at Mill River.

Stratford golfers: Stratford High and Bunnell played a match on April 30 at Mill River.

The match was Bunnell's first victory against four losses. The Lady Bulldog highlights were: Junior Danka Hlinka broke 60 for the first time in five matches, and in her sixth week of playing golf, senior Debra Caminade broke 70.

As the heat roared in, Bunnell played at home May 1 versus Weston, dropping the match 218 to 276. The Bunnell score was 20 shots better than its previous best at Oronoque on April 18. Going back on the road Thursday May 2 against Newtown, the Lady Bulldogs lost 208-286 at Rock Ridge Country Club. The respective scores for Bunnell in the two matches were 62-62 by Danka Hlinka; 68-69 by Kellie Taylor; 73-77 by Debra Caminade, and 73-78 by Sasha Kalson.

Bunnell will have matches Monday through Thursday, May 7-10, in trying to catch up on its schedule due to the poor spring weather.

 

 

 

Cliff Schrock
Bunnell girls golf team plays fourth match of season

After two matches had to be postponed in its first week of the season due to poor weather, the Bunnell (Stratford) High School girls golf team finally opened its season Monday April 9 with a South-West Conference loss to Immaculate at Richter Park in Danbury.

The final score was Immaculate 279, Bunnell 304 in the season-opening match for both schools. The Bunnell players on the par-35 course were: Danka Hlinka 69, Debra Caminade 77, Kellie Taylor 77, and Sasha Kalson 81. Caminade was making her varsity golf debut; the other three Lady Bulldogs are returnees. Prior to the match, senior Taylor was named team captain. Avery Jarboe of Immaculate was medalist with 63.

Bunnell's second match was a home loss to Masuk of Monroe on April 18 at par-36 Oronoque Country Club. Bunnell cut six shots off its first score with 296 in losing to Masuk's 212. Danka Hlinka had 65, Kellie Taylor 75, Debra Caminade 77 and Sasha Kalson 79. Emma Michetti had 48 to lead Masuk.

Bunnell played Match No. 3 on April 23 in a home event with Notre Dame of Fairfield. The final score was ND 244, Bunnell 297. Danka Hlinka led shorthanded Bunnell with 61, Sasha Kalson had 77, and Kellie Taylor 78. The team had just three players. NDF was led by Katelyn Pond 45. The match continued a four-stroke reduction trend for Hlinka from the first match of the season. Also noteworthy for the Lady Bulldogs was the determined effort by junior Kalson, who had a frustrating nine holes going until she finished strong with a bogey-5 on the ninth. 

Bunnell traveled to Redding Country Club on April 26 to play Joel Barlow. Final score was Joel Barlow 221, Bunnell 303. Under normal conditions, hilly Redding CC plays long, but it was even longer after heavy rain on April 25. As a result, the Bunnell players all shot higher than normal. Scores were: Danka Hlinka 67, Debra Caminade 77, Kellie Taylor 79, and Sasha Kalson 80. Joel Barlow was led by Molly Healey's 48 on the par-36 front nine. 

Bunnell's next match is Monday April 30 on the road versus Stratford at Mill River Country Club.

Bunnell Core Four.jpg

Bunnell High School's core-four girls golf team.

 

Cliff Schrock
What a joy to be surrounded by the game and players at the CT Golf Show in Hartford

When the weather’s not conducive for golf—at least for the majority of players—the alternative is to engulf yourself in a golf-rich environment. That’s what my foray today to the Connecticut Golf Show in Hartford was all about, and it was mission accomplished.

The show, which started Friday and concludes Sunday (doors open at 9 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. at the Connecticut Convention Center) was an energetic walk through a variety of golf-related businesses, exhibits and speakers.

The CT Golf Show has a total variety of golf services to enjoy.

The CT Golf Show has a total variety of golf services to enjoy.

The best values I found: the quick, complimentary lesson I got from Glastonbury Hills Country Club assistant pro Michael Johnson at the Connecticut PGA Section booth (he needed me to work on my weight balance at address). Professional help at a cheap “price” is hard to beat.

Also to like was the Connecticut Golf PlayBook 2018 from the Connecticut State Golf Association. The book features dozens of discounts on courses around the state and can be bought now at the 40 percent off price of $29.95.

In talking with CSGA communications director Bob Carney, he emphasized the book promotes exploration of courses around the state, and since private as well as public courses are featured, you can get to some courses you’ve been wanting to try out. And Carney points out purchase of the book benefits the CSGA and its mission. It’s best to buy the book now to make use of as many as deals as possible.

Highly intriguing to me: The New England Turf Store out of Canton, Mass., and its artificial putting greens that can be constructed. It’s tempting to want to take down my above-ground pool and install one of these!

Another major presence was GOLFTEC and its renowned instructional approach.

After a walk-through the entire hall, the exhibitors could be broken down into groups:

The state golf leaders: CSGA, Connecticut PGA Section, First Tee of Connecticut, The Travelers Championship, and the Connecticut Amateur Golf Tour. There was also the American Singles Golf Association.

Regional clubs promoting their facility: Blackledge C.C., Blue Fox Run, Crestview and Elmcrest country clubs in western Massachusetts, Crumpin-Fox Club, Farmington Woods, Fox Hopyard, Gillette Ridge, Glastonbury Hills C.C., Portland Golf Course, Tallwood C.C., Wallingford C.C., Windham C.C. in New York.  

Resort destinations: Cranwell Spa & Resort, Dominican Republic Tourism Board, Green Mountain National, Greene County in the Catskills, International Golf Tours/britanniagolf.com, Kaanapali golf courses, Lake Morey Resort, the Maine Golf Trail, the Maine Golf Trifecta (including Poland Springs), Myrtle Beach, Ocean City, Md., Ocean Edge (Cape Cod), Pocono Manor, Pa., Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort, Pa., Stowe Mountain Resort, Stratton Mountain, Sugarloaf in Maine, Treetops Resort/Northern Michigan, Turning Stone Resort (five courses in Verona, N.Y.), Villa Roma Resort in the Catskills, Williamsburg, Va., Woodloch Springs, Pa. Many of these booths are offering sweepstakes to enter for free stays. Plus, there was a “Florida golf vacation” sweepstakes.

Spirits and…: Hartford Flavor Company, Litchfield Distillery, Skyy Vodka and Gina Cigar.

And to illustrate how show organizers hope variety is the spice of a show, there are chiropractic services, bracelets, financial advisors, insurance, banks, home and kitchen remodeling companies, shaving company, skin-care company, eyewear/sunglass companies, a children’s medical center, window replacement, gutter protection, cutlery, jerky, boat club, hot/cold packs…it was like one-stop shopping in a golf tent. The Crowley Auto Group had a huge presence; the most interesting was their display of custom vans for “golf on the go.”

Also peddling its discount coupon book was New England Golf Guide, and New England Golfing Magazine was there, too. Incredible equipment values were available at Chris Cote’s Golf Shop, Mike’s Golf Outlet, and Dr. Mulligan’s golf balls. You could easily outfit yourself from clubs to apparel.

But back to the pent-up golfer: Perhaps best of all, there are a few opportunities to take out winter frustration with putting, chipping, long-drive and full-swing contests. Additional swings were available at the Callaway, Cobra, Ping, Taylor Made, Titleist and Wilson club-demo areas.

Go to ctgolfshow.com for more details and admission prices.

Attendees can try a nearly 50-foot putt.

Attendees can try a nearly 50-foot putt.

Cliff Schrock
Past champion Bubba Watson commits to Travelers Championship

HARTFORD, Conn., March 13, 2018 – A reinvigorated Bubba Watson, who ended a victory drought earlier this year in Los Angeles at the Genesis Open with his 10th PGA Tour victory, will try to keep the good year going when he comes back to a place where he's won twice in his career. The Travelers Championship staff announced today that the Florida native has committed to play in the June 21-24 tournament, played at the popular TPC River Highlands layout in Cromwell, south of Hartford.

In addition to the two Travelers victories, Watson has also finished tied for sixth or better three other times. “Bubba is a fan favorite and seems to be in contention to win here every year,” said the championship's Tournament Director Nathan Grube. “Not only that, but off the course he has always taken a personal interest in things that are important to the tournament, whether it’s visiting The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp or supporting our charitable initiatives.”

Watson’s first PGA TOUR victory came at the 2010 Travelers Championship, when he beat Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank in a playoff. He added a second Travelers Championship title in 2015, also in a playoff, this time against Paul Casey. Watson has won the Masters tournament twice, in 2012 and 2014, the first won in memorable fashion with an escape shot on the 10th hole from the trees in a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Watson's victory in the Genesis Open was his third in that historic tournament at Riviera Country Club.

At the 2016 Travelers Championship, Watson made a $100,000 donation to the Bruce Edwards Foundation Benefit Dinner in support of the former Travelers Chairman Jay Fishman. The event raised more than $1.3 million for ALS research. Watson represented the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics, and he has played in three Ryder Cups (2010, 2012, 2014) and two Presidents Cups (2011, 2015).

The announcement of Watson keeps the heralded commitments coming. Previously, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy had committed to play in the 2018 Travelers. For more information on this year’s tournament, visit TravelersChampionship.com.

 

Cliff Schrock
The Best Courses in the State

Golf Digest’s The Best Courses In Every State, 2017-'18

Golf Digest's 40th Best in State course ranking, from the July 2017 issue. In 1977, Golf Digest first started ranking the best courses in each state, 11 years after the debut of its national list.

(1) The Stanwich Club, Greenwich*

(2) C.C. of Fairfield

(3) The Course at Yale, New Haven*

(4) Wee Burn C.C., Darien

(5) Tamarack C.C., Greenwich

(6) Lake of Isles G.C. (South), North Stonington

(7) Bull's Bridge G.C., South Kent

(8) Round Hill Club, Greenwich

(9) Brooklawn C.C., Fairfield

(10) Hartford G.C. (Red/Blue), West Hartford

*On America's Second 100 Greatest Golf Courses, as ranked by Golf Digest

Cliff Schrock
McIlroy coming back, announces return to The Travelers in 2018

HARTFORD, Conn., Jan. 31, 2018 – Rory McIlroy commits to the 2018 Travelers Championship. That was the sweet news announced by the championship today in a press release. McIlroy, a four-time major champion with 13 PGA Tour victories, made his initial appearance at The Travelers Championship with a tie for 17th in 2017. He closed with a 64 at TPC River Highlands, his best score of the week.

“I made the comment after last year’s tournament that I would definitely be back, and I’m delighted that my 2018 schedule will allow me to do that,” McIlroy said. “I love everything about the Travelers Championship: the golf course, the positive impact it has on the community and the support we receive from the fans.”

McIlroy speaking to the media prior to the 2017 Travelers.

McIlroy speaking to the media prior to the 2017 Travelers.

McIlroy has become one of the biggest draws in golf. After a remarkable amateur career, he turned professional in 2007 and has since won 22 tournaments around the world, including the 2011 U.S. Open, 2014 Open Championship and the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championship. He will attempt to complete the career Grand Slam at this year’s Masters. McIlroy was named PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2012 and 2014, and in 2016 he won the season-long FedExCup points title.

McIlroy, a 28-year-old from Northern Ireland, has held the world’s No. 1 ranking for 95 weeks, and is currently ranked No. 8.

“We loved having Rory play in last year’s Travelers Championship, and we’re so thankful and excited that he’s decided to come back,” said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Travelers. “Rory had so many wonderful things to say about his experience, especially when it came to the fans. I know they’ll be rooting for him to have another great week this June.”

The 2018 Travelers Championship will be held June 18-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. The tournament website is TravelersChampionship.com.

 

Cliff Schrock
The Best Golf Teachers in Connecticut

Golf Digest’s The Best Teachers In Your State 2017-2018

(As ranked by their peers, from Golf Digest November 2017)

CONNECTICUT

1.) Suzy Whaley, TPC River Highlands, Cromwell

2.) George Connor, Farmington Woods Golf Club, Avon

3.) Paul Ramee, Bull's Bridge Golf Club, South Kent

4.) Kammy Maxfeldt, Birchwood C.C., Westport

5.) Ken Doyle, Hop Meadow C.C., Simsbury

6.) Dave Bove, Tashua Knolls G. Cse., Trumbull

7.) Chet Dunlop, Burlington Golf Center

8.) Mike Summa, Stanwich Club, Greenwich

9.) Jessica Carafiello, Innis Arden Golf Club, Old Greenwich

10.) Ron Beck, Fox Hopyard Golf Club, East Haddam

11.) Tom Henderson, Round Hill Club, Greenwich

12.) John Nowobilski, Tallwood C.C., Hebron

13.) Brian Hussey, Rock Ridge C.C., Newtown

14.) John Vitale, GolfTEC, West Hartford

15.) David Pianki, Tower Ridge C.C., Simsbury

 

Cliff Schrock