CROMWELL – The weather Thursday wasn’t the friendliest for the first round of the Travelers Championship, but local, loyal golf fans still muddied their shoes as they trekked through the swampy trails at TPC River Highlands to follow their favorite golfers.
“I think it’s amazing what the Travelers does to make this experience what it is,” Southington resident Rochelle Campbell said. “Not just for the players, but for people from Connecticut. What they do is amazing. (The golfers) seem to love the experience that the people from Connecticut can have.”
Campbell and her son, Jacob Drena, have been coming to the Travelers Championship for 10 years running. Campbell and Drena enjoy immersing themselves in the excitement of the large groups that gather and follow around the tournament’s top performers and high-profile golfers.
“On the last day we like to come back and plant ourselves right on the 18th (hole) and watch people come in,” Campbell said. “It’s just so much fun. Sometimes it’s actually fun to be right in with everyone. There’s so much excitement.”
Campbell, a previous volunteer at the Travelers, always has the event circled on her calendar so she can clear her weekend schedule and take in one of her favorite annual events of the year.
“Every year we’re like ‘OK, what day are we going?’” Campbell said. “We always plan it to make sure we’re there.”
John, a New Britain native who now resides in Plainville, shrugged off the misty weather to attend the Travelers with his daughter for the fourth year in a row, refusing to let a forecast of rain break tradition.
“You don’t always get a chance to come on sunny days,” said John, who didn’t want to give his last name. “But even if the weather is bad, the golfers still play in the rain.”
So do the fans, which crowded the tournament’s “Fan Zone” alongside the 18th fairway. The area provides everything from food stands to a miniature golf course and a booth that analyzes your golf swing using clubs and vests armed with sensors. One of the biggest draws is the “Chipping Challenge,” where guests have three chances to sink a shot from 56 feet to win a prize.
Campbell, an avid golf fan, travels to other tournaments throughout the season, but for more casual fans like John, the Travelers represents a chance for local residents to take in a sport that tends to host their most high-profile events in consistently warmer climates. But every June, central Connecticut becomes the hub for professional golf.
“This is the only tournament I’ve ever been to, but I feel like this is really cool,” John said. “I just sit for hours and watch the golfers come by. I think the Fan Zone and everything for the kids really adds to it, too. It seems like a lot of effort is put in to make sure it all runs smoothly.”
While the Travelers puts in the effort to make sure everything about the guest experience is entertaining and diverse, in the end, the real draw for local residents is the chance to see the best golfers in the world up close.
“It’s amazing to watch these golfers hit the way they hit,” Campbell said. “They’re just so talented.”