Family gifts make Travelers attractive to top pros

By Associated PressJune 17, 2014, 11:30 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Bubba Watson's family arrived at their hotel in Connecticut this week to find that organizers of The Travelers Championship had left two gift packages, one for his wife and another for his 2-year-old son, Caleb.

''He got a little spaceship, but he thought it was an airplane, so he thought it was the greatest thing in the world,'' Watson said Tuesday. ''When the tournament does little things like that, it makes it special for us.''

The gifts are part of a carefully designed recruiting package targeting the families and caddies of PGA golfers. The idea, said tournament director Nathan Grube, is to make the tournament an attractive destination for them, and therefore more attractive to the golfers, who might otherwise want to take a break the week after the U.S. Open.

This year, four of the top-ranked golfers in the world (No. 3 Watson, No. 5 Matt Kuchar, No. 7 Jason Day, and No. 8 Sergio Garcia) and 16 of the top 50 decided to play in Cromwell.

Dozens of them, along with family members and caddies, arrived Sunday aboard a free charter the tournament has run from the U.S. Open since the Travelers took over the sponsorship of the Connecticut event in 2007.


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Once they are here, the caddies receive wind jackets, free dry cleaning all week, and a party in their honor. The golfer's wives get a beach bag filled with wine and chocolate and a spa day in West Hartford.

The families also are offered free outings to attractions such as ESPN in Bristol, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts and the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.

''There were a lot of little things that we did that started adding up to the players,'' said Nathan Grube, the tournament's director. ''I call it relationship building.''

It began with a lunch in 2006 when the insurance giant began its sponsorship. About 10 golfers sat down with Grube and Andy Bessette, The Travelers chief administrative officer, to discuss what would make the tournament more attractive.

The charter flight was the first thing, followed in 2008 by a new 23-acre practice range. Each year Bessette would go into the clubhouse with a notebook, and fill it with ideas for the next year.

The recruiting, he said, doesn't end after the tournament. At the end of each season, the golfers receive a gift from the tournament (this year it was red Beats headphones). Whenever a golfer becomes a father, The Travelers sends the family a baby outfit with its umbrella logo.

''I get more thank you notes from the wives saying, 'That is a really cool idea,''' he said

The tournament also strategically uses its sponsor's exemptions, targeting up-and-coming golfers. Webb Simpson received one in 2008, and said that was major reason he chose to play here a week after winning the U.S. Open in 2012.

Top-ranked amateur Patrick Rodgers got one two years ago to play his first PGA event as an amateur. He got another one this year after deciding it would be a perfect spot to make his pro debut.

''They've just gone above and beyond to make me a spoiled player this week and make me feel like I'm just a regular out her on the PGA Tour,'' he said. ''The Travelers Championship will always have a special place in my heart.''

And that's just what the tournament wants to hear.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.