Connor Giveans, 16, lives in Portland, CT and just finished his junior year at Portland High School where he plays on the golf team. He is an Eagle Level participant at The First Tee of Connecticut.
Jack and I started day two of our Junior Course Reporter experience around 8:30 this morning watching the first round of the Travelers Championship.
Midway through the morning, we had the opportunity to talk to longtime Hartford Courant sports writer, Tom Yantz, about journalism as well as the golf going on that day. Since Brendan Steele was playing so well, we spoke at length about his possible 59 and how rare that is in golf. With all of the excitement surrounding Steele, we decided to go out and follow him for his last four holes. Unfortunately, he parred in, but still shot an amazing round of 62, 8-under, which, as of 4:00 on Thursday, is good enough for a one-shot lead.
After Steele’s finish, we ate lunch in media dining and waited around for Steele’s post-round interview. This was definitely my favorite part of the day because he was very open about his round and talked about which clubs he was hitting well. Did you know that he recently switched putters? This was his first round with a short putter on the PGA TOUR! Steele said that the course was in nice condition and he even seemed a bit surprised about how well he played because he usually doesn’t play well in the rain.
After the interview, we walked back down the hill to the 18th green to catch some more guys finishing their rounds. Jack and I even got some golf balls and gloves from the pros. While some of the players were finishing their rounds, many were also getting ready to start, so we headed to the range for a bit to see them warm up.
We had a little bit of time to kill before the live taping of Golf Central Pre-Game, so we watched the last two morning groups finish up 18 and I got a golf ball from Adam Rainaud, the assistant professional from Black Hall Golf Club in Old Lyme, CT who qualified for the Travelers Championship when he won the Connecticut Section PGA’s Stroke Play Championship this spring at Wallingford Country Club. Adam was +2 today.
The last thing we did today was watch a Golf Central Pre-Game live taping. Ryan Burr, Frank Nobilo, and Karen Stupples talked about Brendan Steele’s great round this morning as well as other notable players. It was cool to hear about the Women’s U.S. Open going on at Pinehurst, too.
Thank you to the Travelers Championship, The First Tee of Connecticut, and Tom Yantz for a fantastic two days!
When Mark Moriarty, the Director of Programs at The First Tee of Connecticut, called me and offered me the opportunity to be a junior course reporter at the 2014 Travelers Championship, I jumped on the opportunity. I’ve always attended the tournament, but I knew that having the opportunity to attend interview sessions and interact with some of the pros would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I met Mr. Moriarty outside of The First Tee’s Learning Center, and then met the other junior reporter, Jack Kane. The first thing we did was go to the Titleist equipment truck, and meet with some of the club makers. We learned a little bit about the process of making clubs and how players adjust to the new technology that comes out each year. We also received the unique opportunity to see a club being made from almost scratch. That in itself was an incredible experience, but the day continued to get better.
After seeing the truck, we briefly watched a bit of the celebrity Pro-Am. We saw former University of Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun play, which was especially cool to me because I am a huge UConn basketball fan. Then we went to Keegan Bradley’s interview. He talked about why he loved the playing in the tournament, as well as why so many pros played here even though it was the week after the U.S. Open. After that Jack and I were able to privately interview Scott McCarron during a miniature golf tournament in the fan zone. That was another incredible experience, and he was extremely friendly and answered every question we threw at him. After, we had a quick lunch and came back to the Learning Center.
Our trip to the Learning Center was only supposed to be a quick bathroom break, but then J.J. Henry walked in. He has done quite a bit for The First Tee of Connecticut, as he is from Fairfield County, and wanted to know what was going on here. J.J. saw the new building and loved it. He was especially excited about the painted tiles displayed on the first floor of the facility and that The First Tee is able to do so much for kids. I have been a participant of The First Tee of Connecticut for about eight years, and I know they do such a great job teaching kids live skills through the game of golf. I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me. It’s amazing to see professional golfers giving so much of their time to help out kids.
Shawn Stefani was a great example of sharing his time with kids when he gave a free clinic on the range. After the clinic, he allowed Jack and me to hit a few balls with him. While we did this we talked about the game, and he gave us some tips and hints to help fix our swing. Afterwards, we had a few closest to the hole competitions. Jack won both of them. We tried to talk him into staying and hitting balls with us a little bit longer, but he had been out there for a while and was tired. After hitting his last shot, he pulled out a sharpie and started writing something on his glove. He then pulled it off and I realized that he had one last gift for me. He had signed the glove and gave it to me. It was the perfect way to cap off an amazing day at TPC River Highlands and the Travelers Championship.
Jack Kane, 16, lives in Berlin, CT and just finished his sophomore year at Xavier High School where he plays on the golf team. Jack previously served as a Junior Course Reporter at the Senior PGA Championship. He is an Eagle Level participant at The First Tee of Connecticut.
On the second day of my course reporter’s experience, the Travelers Championship got underway. I knew that the course conditions would allow for some low scores but I was never expecting what took place.
My day began watching some of the best players in the world tee off. After a few groups passed we walked up to the media center to meet with Mr. Tom Yantz. Mr. Yantz, a writer for the Hartford Courant, gave us inside knowledge into to world of sports writing. The demanding deadlines and the massive amount of work required really surprised me. When we spoke to Mr. Yantz, PGA Tour professional Brendan Steele was in the midst of challenging Patrick Cantley’s course record of 60. Mr. Yantz told us how he covers major events like a possible course record and how the priorities of the writers can change quickly.
Mr. Steele then proceeded to make a birdie on the par-5 13th to get to 8-under par. I decided to go out and watch him up close as he chased history. I intercepted his group on the 15th hole. Steele hit his approach shot short of the reachable par-4 and pitched up to about 5 feet. Unfortunately, his birdie putt slid by and with it, the realistic chance of him shooting a 59. Nonetheless, I followed him as his finished his round, paring the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes to finish with a very strong 62. His first round score matched his previous career low from the Phoenix Open earlier this year. Mr. Steele walked off the 18th green and fist-bumped his caddie to celebrate his great round. As I followed him up the hill, he pulled his glove from his back pocket and tossed it to me. I smiled and thanked him, wishing him luck for the rest of the week as he chases his second career win on the PGA Tour.
After seeing Mr. Steele set the lead at 8-under, we walked back to the media tent for his interview session. He didn’t seem to surprise at his impressive round, as he felt he had been playing much better of late. I asked him if he approached this week any different than others, due to the amount of wedges that he would need to hit into greens. He stated that he had never really been a great wedge player but he focused on that aspect of his game more this week than others and it certainly has helped him be successful.
These past few days at the Travelers Championship have been days I will not forget anytime soon. I had the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at all the effort that goes into putting on a successful PGA Tour event and I met many great people along the way. It goes without saying the amount of talent possessed by the players participating this week is truly remarkable. I am excited to watch the leaders battle it out for the Championship this weekend. I would like to thank the Travelers Championship and The First Tee on Connecticut for granting me this amazing opportunity. I couldn’t have asked for a greater experience, and I look forward to any more opportunities that may present themselves.
As I walked to The First Tee of Connecticut’s Learning Center, I was anxious to begin my day as a Junior Course Reporter. With my past experiences in mind, I knew to expect a day nothing short of remarkable. My new friend Connor Giveans and I were handed our credentials and were escorted to the Media Center by Mark Moriarty, Director of Programs. There, we were met by various reporters, writers, and publishers.
After grabbing a few snacks from the hospitality tent we headed over to the Titleist equipment trailer. The ability of each staff member was evident as soon as we stepped inside. Any club that Titleist produced could be constructed and customized to the players needs all within the confines of the trailer. We were even given sneak-peaks of concept clubs that might be sold to the general public starting this November. Connor and I were both overwhelmed at the price for some of the parts as simple as a shaft. Both of us were tempted to ask for a custom new driver on the spot!
With this great experience behind us, we headed out onto the course to watch a few marquee players finish up their practice rounds. After sitting by the 17th green for about an hour, we headed back up to the Media Center to each lunch. We were then granted access to Keegan Bradley’s post-round press conference. It was obvious how attractive the Travelers Championship is to the players by how highly he spoke of the management and the facilities. Mr. Bradley was also asked about his decision to switch back to his belly putter that he used to win the 2011 PGA Championship. He stated how he is open to switching between his belly-putter and his “shorty” from tournament to tournament.
My favorite part of the day was when I had the opportunity to interview PGA Tour professional Scott
McCarron at the Celebrity Mini-Golf Tournament. Mr. McCarron was one of the nicest professional golfers I have met. This man was not only motivated to play in the Travelers Championship because of the beautiful course and facilities, but also to have the opportunity to further give back to children and their communities. Mr. McCarron has had a fulfilling PGA Tour career and hopes to continue his strong season. After he decides to move on with his life, he hopes to both continue golfing on the Champions Tour and pursue a secondary career in broadcasting.
We then headed down to the driving range of The First Tee and met up with PGA Tour professional Shawn Stefani. I even had the opportunity to match up with him in a head-to-head closest to the pin competition. I can honestly say that I held my own and even beat Mr. Stefani on a few shots. I was gracious for the opportunity to practice with him and told him that I would look out for him on the course during the tournament.
Day one of my two day experience has concluded and it was filled with many exciting events. I am looking forward to tomorrow and any opportunities it may bring.