The MidState Chamber of Commerce once again this year provided volunteer services to the Annual PGA Travelers Golf Tournament in Cromwell. Under the direction of my fellow Chamber member George McGoldrick, local architect and former city councilor, volunteers were assigned as marshals on the 12th hole to provide crowd control and noise reduction as the pros were hitting and putting.
Hundreds of volunteers are the heart of the Travelers Tournament. They cheerfully provide countless hours parking cars, selling food, marshaling holes and doing countless other duties to ensure a smooth event which is turning out to be one of the best attended stops on the PGA schedule.
The unique thing about the Professional Golf tour is that the spectators have closer personal contact with the professionals than in any other sport. The best players in the world give the fans fist pumps, high fives and sign autographs galore. They even occasionally flip a ball to the spectators. This all adds to the excitement and the many personal stories the spectators tell their family and friends for years.
My personal story from this year is that I volunteered for the day and took my position near the putting green where I had a great up close view of all the players coming through. The highlight for me was when Jordon Speith (the eventual winner) chipped from off the green and hit the flag stick for a gimme putt, displaying his magical touch that was crucial to his winning performance (he holed a green-side bunker shot to win the tournament).
Connecticut really shines when this tournament comes to town and we are grateful to the Travelers Insurance Company for sponsoring such a great event and we’re fortunate to have such a PGA tour venue right in our backyard.
The stadium seating, especially the giant amphitheater along the final few holes, makes for great viewing and fan appeal. The course is easily accessible for all, including handicapped and senior citizens. This tour stop is emerging as one of the most watched and exciting tournaments of the year. The fantastic sudden death overtime victory by Jordon Speith, with an improbable birdie holing out from the sand over a hard charging Daniel Berger, made for one of the best finishes in golf history. This event has brought much needed glamour at a time when our state sorely needs it. Golf can be enjoyed by everyone, whether as a spectator or player.
In Meriden we have one of the best and well maintained public golf courses in Connecticut — Hunter Golf Course. This picturesque and challenging layout beckons residents and visitors alike. It is easy to get a tee time for 9 or 18 holes and friendly, courteous staff members are available to make for a very pleasurable experience. After the round, one can wine and dine at Violi’s Restaurant (offering a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week). Speaking of local golf, I recently played in a charity golf tournament run by a local nonprofit organization “Amici Della Vigna” (“Friends of the Vine”). They are a small group of friends and colleagues who initially met at Tom’s Restaurant in South Meriden and talked about how they might help those in need in our community. As a result, they formed as a nonprofit organization ten years ago to raise funds for local needy causes. Their focus has been on supporting veterans, providing relief for victims of tragedy and giving out scholarships. The club organizes three fundraising events a year, including a booth at the Daffodil Festival, a winter dance, and the latest being a golf tournament at Hawks Landing in Southington.
This year over 90 golfers participated for a fun day of golf. The co-chairmen of the event were Ray Maratea and Brian Farrell (these guys know how to run a great tournament by providing wonderful amenities, terrific food and a dazzling array of raffle prizes). Our group had an enjoyable day and managed nine birdies (not bad for a threesome ages 72, 75 and 83 years old, respectively). I have to admit that, as the youngest of the group, I was by far the worst golfer.
Amici Della Vigna represents the best of our community, and like many residents who give of themselves and volunteer to help others, demonstrates an unselfish dedication to those in need. Their spirit of giving back to the community is alive and well in Meriden. This is yet another positive and admirable aspect of our community.
Michael S. Rohde is a former Meriden mayor and city councilor.