CROMWELL — The first
Now called the
But for many years its status as the most popular single sporting event in Connecticut has not changed. About 240,000 fans watched the tournament at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell last year. The competition, won by Freddie Jacobson, also was seen around the world on CBS.
Since 1952 when President Harry Truman was in office and gasoline was 20 cents a gallon, familiar golf names and greats such as
From the tournament's humble start at Wethersfield CC in 1952 when the total purse was $15,000, to the $6 million showcase at TPC River Highlands, here are 60 distinctive events to remember before the tournament tees off Thursday:
01 Greater Hartford Junior Chamber of Commerce President Phil Sehl and vice president Ed May asked Rockledge CC-West Hartford owner Mike Sherman if his course would be the site of the first PGA tournament in Connecticut. But Sherman told The Courant: "We'd be happy to have it, but really, the only place it should be is at the `Club of Champions.' '' That was Wethersfield CC.
03 Attendance the first tournament day, Aug. 29, 1952, was estimated at 4,000. Attendance for the entire tournament was 20,000, despite three days of heavy rain.
04 Ted Kroll won the first title with a score of 273.
06 Bolt defeated Earl Stewart in the only 18-hole playoff in tournament history (67-70) in '54.
07 Amateur Bill Whedon from the CC of Farmington scored holes-in-one on the fifth and ninth in the first round in '55. He's the only amateur to record two holes-in-one in one round in PGA Tour history.
09 Palmer won his first professional title in the U.S. in the '56
10 Before all of the technologically advanced drivers and golf balls,
11 The next year Wethersfield CC's Jimmy Grant tied for second – the highest finish by an amateur in tournament history. He and Al Besselnk were one shot shy of Ken Venturi.
12 In '67, the tournament became known as the Greater Hartford Open.
14 Billy Casper set the tournament record with four victories, all in a 10-year span: '63, '65, '68 and '73.
15 Trevino, who loved Wethersfield CC, beat
17 Davis' influence helped bring celebrities to the Wednesday pro-am. They included
18 The Greater Hartford Jaycees signed a 14-year lease with the Pierson family, which owned Edgewood Golf Club in Cromwell, in '82.
19 The '83 tournament, "The Last Blast," was the final year for the event at Wethersfield CC. The tournament needed a more challenging course for the players and more land for larger crowds, parking lots and corporate inclusion.
20 Ted May was tournament chairman for the last tournament at Wethersfield CC. His dad, Ed, and Harry Keefe were co-chairmen of the first ICO.
21 In '84 Edgewood GC was turned into TPC Connecticut.
22 Peter Jacobson won the first tournament there on the 6,786-yard, par-71 course with a 271.
23 Canon USA Inc. became the title sponsor in '85. That year the tournament was named the Canon Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open.
24 Two hours ahead of the leaders on the opposite nine in '85,
25 Sammy Davis Jr.'s 16-year run with the GHO ended in '88.
26 The following year the tournament was named Canon Greater Hartford Open.
28 In '90, the 558-yard par-5 10th was made into a 303-yard par 4 hole during course construction. The course was 6,531 yards, and par was 70.
29 Eleven holes were built during a course redesign in '91. The 6,820-yard, par 70 course was renamed TPC River Highlands.
30 A tournament record crowd of 322,000 watched the '94 tournament, won by
31 A single day tournament record crowd of 100,000 saw the final rounds in '94 and '97.
32 Norman, who won in '95, disqualified himself the following year after the second round. He did so because he knew he had used a non-conforming ball in the second round (the ball's marking wasn't on the approved ball list).
33 Casey Martin, who has a rare degenerative circulatory condition that affects his right leg, was the first player to ride in a cart in a regular tour event in '98.
34 In 2000,
35 Many past champions gathered before the 50th tournament in '01. They included Palmer, Snead, Bolt, Casper, Sifford,
36 Tennis great Martina Hingas, who at the time was
37 Mickelson shot a final-round 64 in '02 to become the fourth multiple winner in tournament history.
38 Canon bowed out as tournament sponsor after '02. The tournament used a bridge plan of sponsors in '03 to save the tournament. Its name was the Greater Hartford Open.
39 Jacobson, 49, was the fifth multiple winner in '03 and the oldest winner in tournament history.
40 Buick signed on as title sponsor in '03.
41 Suzy Whaley, the Blue Fox Run GC pro who won the Connecticut Section PGA championship in '02, earned a tournament spot in '03. She was the first women to qualify for a tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the '45 Tucson Open.
42 Bruce Edwards, a native of Wethersfield, was the longtime caddie for
44 In '06, Maggie Hardy Magerko, president of 84 Lumber, decided to pull the company out of sponsorship for the tournament in Pennsylvania. This provided a slot for Cromwell in the
45 St. Paul Travelers signed a four-year commitment in April '06 to be the primary sponsor of the Travelers Championship. The purse increased from $4.4 million in the final year of the Buick Championship to $6 million for the first Travelers Championship the next year.
48 A 23-acre practice facility opened at the north end of the course in '08.
49 In February '09, Travelers announced it would pick up its contract option to be the title sponsor of the tournament for '11 and '12 and extend it through '14.
52 Bubba Watson made a birdie putt on the second playoff hole, the par-3 16th, and embraced his wife, Angie, in an emotional scene on the green after winning his first tour event in '10.
53 Patrick Cantlay's 60 in the second round in '11 was the lowest amateur round in tour history.
54 Some celebrities who played in pro-ams: Ray Allen,
55 Thirty three holes-in-one have been recorded. Whedon and
56 There's a plaque on the cart path at 18 at TPC River Highlands to honor the longest drive in tournament history. Watson hit a 396-yard drive on the 72nd hole in 2010.
57 Faxon holds the tournament record with 27 appearances.
58 The tournament is tied for third place with the HP Bryon Nelson Championship for most playoffs (20) on tour. The U.S. Open (33) and
59 Freddie Jacobson carded only one bogey in winning his first tour event last year.
60 Mahan is the all-time money leader in the tournament with $2,313, 758.