Celebrity pro-am, mini golf tourney tees off in Cromwell - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP

Celebrity pro-am, mini golf tourney tees off in Cromwell

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Bubba Watson tees off at the Travelers Championship celebrity pro-am. (WFSB) Bubba Watson tees off at the Travelers Championship celebrity pro-am. (WFSB)
The Travelers Championship celebrity pro-am kicked off at 6:50 a.m. on Wednesday. (@TravelersChamp photo) The Travelers Championship celebrity pro-am kicked off at 6:50 a.m. on Wednesday. (@TravelersChamp photo)
CROMWELL, CT (WFSB) -

This year's celebrity pro-am at the Travelers Championship may be UConn-heavy, but sports stars and coaches weren't the only ones who teed off on Wednesday.

Travelers regulars such as UConn basketball legend Ray Allen, women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, and former men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun as well as newcomer UConn basketball player Rebecca Lobo. 

"I don't think anything has the impact on state of Connecticut that travelers does and what it does for so many people," Auriemma said. 

Calhoun agreed with his coaching alumni. 

"It is a Connecticut celebration like basketball in winter," Calhoun said."It  just brings so many smiling faces out here."

For Lobo, it was all about the fans. 

"I am looking forward to seeing some of the fans here toda," Lobo said. "It's a beautiful day what else would you like to be doing right."

The UConn contingent competed against the likes of former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and ESPN commentator Chris Berman,who lost his wife six weeks ago. 

"This is home. This home for me and us," Berman said. "I'll see people who were my postman in the 90's. Those are the people I will see and wouldn't see otherwise.'

Actor and comedian Kevin Nealon, who is originally from Bridgeport, was back for the second year.

"This is my second year doing this and I love coming here it's a great tournament," Nealon said. 

Broadway actor Chris Jackson was in the original cast of Hamilton and played none other than president George Washington. Jackson said he's not exactly a golfer, but he's got a good sense of humor.

"They seem to know what they are doing," Jackson said. "I am also prepared to be laughed at."

Both the celebrity pro-am and mini-golf tournaments took place at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.

Jason Briggs took a trip up from Rhode Island for a shot at meeting his favorite players.

"My two favorite players are here, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy," Briggs said. "I actually got Rory's autograph." 

"It's a good day to get pictures, autographs, that kind of thing," said Alex Drechsler of Southinton.

For a full list of the celebrities that participated and their professional golfer pairings, look here.

"It's more of a casual day. The players, their guards are down a little bit, they'll sign more autographs [and] they'll engage [with fans]," said Nathan Grube, Travelers Championship director. "It's kind of the calm before the competition, I'd say."

The celebrity mini-golf tournament also teed off on Wednesday. That portion of the Travelers has grown in popularity over the years, according to Grube.

"There's a waiting list for teams," Grube said. "What we do is we have teams compete and then the winning teams get $2,500 to the charity of their choice."

Grube said, as a result, competitors get very serious.

Check out photos from this year's events here.

Last year, Channel 3's team of Eric Parker, Nicole Nalepa and Marc Robbins took home the trophy. Their winnings were donated to the Channel 3 Kids Camp.

This year, however, victory was all but certain for UConn's contingent, which included women's basketball associate head coach Chris Dailey.

"They'll be golf out here from about 6:50 a.m. until about 8 p.m.," Grube said.

Tournament play itself tees off on Thursday and runs through Sunday.

For complete coverage of the Travelers Championship, stay with Eyewitness News.

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