Pros mix with celebrities at TPC River Highlands
Cromwell, CT- The PGA begins their 35th tournament tomorrow with the Travelers Championship. Today, the players opened the week with the Pro-Am ahead of the competition. The fun round gave the players a chance to get acquainted with the course and show off their skills to the fans. But more than anything, the event gave famous Connecticutians a chance to play with the pros.
The headliners were Ray Allen, Chris Berman, and Jim Calhoun. Allen and Calhoun made their names in Storrs, making the UConn Huskies a staple program in college basketball. Allen is still the best three-point shooter in NBA history and the best player UConn has ever produced. Calhoun started his coaching career at Northeastern before crafting his legend in Gampell Pavilion, winning three National Championships and the 12th most games in NCAA History. Berman served as the face of ESPN from it’s days as a tiny Bristol, CT, operation into it’s domination of the sports market. He has since retired from full-time work, but is still the face and voice people think of when ESPN is brought up.
Allen and Berman joined Bolton native and Stanley Cup Champion Ron Hainsey to overshadow their accompanying professional player, Charley Hoffman. Calhoun played with J.J Henry and his UConn coaching brethren: hockey’s Mike Cavanaugh and football’s Randy Edsall. Other coaching greats joined them on the course. Russell Knox played with Geno Auriemma’s lead assistant and state favorite Chris Dailey and the Husky’s Field Hockey coach, Nancy Davis.
Farmington native and Stanley Cup Champion Nick Bonino and former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky rounded out the CT specific celebrities. Other guests joined in for the fun. Super Bowl Champion Jermaine Kearse joined Jordan Spieth while Boomer Esiason played with 2013 Travelers Champion Ken Duke. Entertainers got in on the act as well. Comedian George Lopez joined the Duke group. Norah O’Donnell, of CBS News fame, played with Dailey and Stevens. And Luke List was joined by three performers. Chris Jackson, Broadway actor who originated the George Washington role in Hamilton, Javier Colon, first winner of The Voice, and Dane DeHaan, from Chronicle and The Amazing Spider-Man movies, all entertained the crowds.
The Pro-Am served it’s purpose of entertaining the crowds. The coaches provided audible riffs on their play. Lopez, Colon, Jackson, Esiason, and Kearse had the crowds in stitches with their jokes and quips. There were some sweeter moments. After the 18th hole, Jim Calhoun sat in a golfcart signing autographs and taking pictures with every fan who approached him. Ray Allen had fun father moments with his kids, who caddied for him. And Chris Dailey met young female fans who offered her small gifts and thank you’s for being a role model.
Ultimately, none of the celebrities won the Pro-Am. Paul Casey’s group of Randy Screen, Don McGowan, and Tim Johnson won the event with a score of -17 for the day, beating Jhonattan Vegas’s foursome by two strokes. But the Travelers week opened in style with great crowd involvement on a sunny day made for golf.