Travelers Championship Signature Status Is a Financial Hit to PGA of America’s Connecticut Section

The inaugural edition of the Travelers Championship and its Signature status could not have ended better for fans, supporters and sponsors of the event as world no. 1 Scottie Scheffler, in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in PGA Tour history, won in a playoff for his sixth title of the year.

When, however, it was originally announced that the Travelers would be an elite event, it sent a chill through a segment of the Connecticut golf community. The move was a cause for great concern at the headquarters  and membership of the PGA of America’s Connecticut Section with the realization that over $20,000 in annual revenue, a sizable portion of the operating budget, would be lost.

Dennis Dungee, Chief Membership Officer for the PGA of America Connecticut Section.

Dennis Dungee, Chief Membership Officer for the PGA of America Connecticut Section.

Prior to being elevated, the Travelers was designated as an open tournament, which meant four spots were saved for local qualifiers coming out of events played on area golf courses. The two pre-qualifiers were held the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the tournament. The final qualifier was held Monday of tournament week. For the past few years, the entrance fee for non-Tour status players was $250 per event. Members of PGA-affiliated tours, Korn Ferry, Mackenzie Tour, etc., paid a discounted rate.

“We’re the only section, to my knowledge, that has lost a qualifier and nothing replaced it,” said  Dennis Dungee, Chief Membership Officer for the Connecticut Section.

According to Dungee, the Wells Fargo Championship, another Signature event, also had open qualifiers. That PGA of America Section, however, did not lose revenue as the PGA Tour’s Myrtle Beach Classic, an open event, was created and is played the same week as the Heritage.

Many Connecticut section golf professionals were disappointed with the turn of events.

“Some of our guys feel that something should be done to compensate us (the Section,)” Dungee said, but added, “They (the PGA Tour) doesn’t owe us anything.”

Adding to the pain was the fact that also lost to Connecticut section professionals was a guaranteed spot in the Travelers field, which went to the winner of the Connecticut Section PGA Championship. In 2003, Suzy Whaley became the first woman in 58 years to qualify for a PGA Tour event after capturing the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA Championship.

The 16th green of TPC River Highlands, home of the the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship, being stimped during tournament week.

The 16th green of TPC River Highlands, home of the the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship, being stimped during tournament week.

Nathan Grube, tournament director for the Travelers and member of the Connecticut section, is well aware of the hit the section took. Grube said the tournament and the Tour are looking at ways to assist in recouping the lost revenue.

This year the Travelers has made significant donations for the auction associated with the foundation’s charity classic golf tournament that benefits the Connecticut PGA Golf Foundation, but that does not help the section’s working budget.

According to Dungee, the section is looking at a number of ways to replace the lost income. The first is running more section events, of which there are 24 in 2024 such as the Connecticut Senior Open and the Connecticut PGA Junior Tour.

The section is also looking to step back in time to 25 years ago when there were over 20 Monday pro-ams that had section pros playing in an event alongside three amateurs, all who paid to participate. The pros played their own ball as well as being part of the team event with the amateurs. Over the years, those events disappeared. Pro-ams returned in 2024 with three on the schedule. Dungee is hopeful more can be added in 2025.

The real goal, though, according to Dungee, is the section, “owning a course or a range that would be a revenue source,” adding “it’s an opportunity to create jobs for PGA professionals.”

Dungee holds no ill will to the PGA Tour and the Travelers for becoming one of the premier events on tour.

“It’s a business,” he said.

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