When the 2 p.m. pairings tee’ d off at the Travelers Championship on Thursday, there was a very emotionally invested crowd surrounding the Tee box.
Ben James is the number one ranked junior golfer in the world, and by chance is making his PGA debut, right here in his home state.
Hitting ball after ball on the practice range in the hours before his round, the 19-year-old from Milford was tuning up.
“This is awesome, just to be out here with the best players in the world,” said James, pondering what would lie ahead this weekend.
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It is a dream James has worked to achieve since he was five years old. At 2 p.m. Thursday, that dream was realized.
Teeing off in front of family and friends, the young man, who just graduated from Hamden Hall Country Day School, was on his way.
“I almost feel like a proud father because I know how good of a kid he is, he’s such a good kid,” said friend of the family, Don Richards, who was wearing a “Ben James Fan Club” tee shirt. The shirt was colored orange and blue, the colors of the University of Virginia where James is headed.
In the hours leading up the moment, as James practiced, his parents anxiously looked on.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” said Gretchen James, explaining how proud she is of her son.
Playing in front of his home state crowd comes on the heels of heartbreak. James missed a 10-foot putt during an U.S. Open qualifier two weeks ago, to miss making that field by one stroke. That fueled his fire and created opportunity.
“He was kind of down on himself and got up at four in the morning because he couldn’t sleep,” said Ben’s father Don James.
Don said his son then went to the practice green at seven that morning and repeatedly practiced the putt he missed. Then, his fortune changed.
“All of a sudden 8 o’clock, Nathan Grube from the Travelers called and said, 'Hey, we got a spot for you,'” Ben’s father explained.
Now, James is looking forward to taking advantage with the unwavering support of his family and home state crowd.
“I know he doesn’t take this opportunity for granted. It was something I know he dreamed of,” Gretchen James added.
While a dream come true, James said he’s ready.
“I mean, I’m here for a reason,” he said, expressing confidence heading into the rounds ahead. He said he has not set a score as a goal - he just wants to play against the course and do the best he can.