The 2018 Travelers Championship week in Cromwell began at TPC River Highlands with remarks from Governor Dan Malloy during the opening ceremony on Monday morning.
"The anticipation is just, you can feel it in the community, the excitement is there. People almost look at us as the kick off of summer," said Nathan Grube, Travelers Championship Tournament Director.
Fans can expect a new experience on the course, including faster shuttles, new on-course venues and new grandstands surrounding the first tee. There are also plenty of comforts to help crowds beat the heat.
"In the Fan Zone we have free wifi, charging stations this year, cooling benches where you can sit down and there are air conditioning benches and family care station for baby changing," Grube said. "The ticket holders feel like VIPs because they are going to have their own venues to go into now."
Last year the Travelers Championship tournament raised more than $1.7 million for various charities, including the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. The camp, located in Ashford, provides hospital-level care for children with life-threatening conditions, while also giving them a chance to experience the fun of a summer camp.
Three kids from the camp participated in the opening ceremony on Monday.
"The Travelers Championship benefiting camp means a lot to me because it helps other kids going through difficult times have just a great and a fun time at camp," said Carly Demartino, 13, of Granby.
This year, 17-year-old Tyler Backus hit the first drive of the week.
"I was very nervous. That was probably the most important shot I will ever take in my life," Backus said.
The player field at the 2018 Travelers Championship boasts some of the best golfers in the world.
"Five out of the top 10. With Brooks Koepka coming fresh off his win at the U.S. Open, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth there are so many great names here in golf that something special is going to happen," said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Travelers.
In 2017 Jordan Spieth won the Travelers Championship in dramatic fashion with a blast from the bunker on the first hole playoff hole. Now tournament officials hope this year will be just as successful.
"Having the best players in the world gives you that platform to raise more money for charity," Grube said.