For Connecticut’s golf courses and retailers, the days and weeks following the Travelers Championship are some of the busiest of the year.
“You go there and watch professional play golf, and it makes you want to go out and play,” said Richard Majowicz, assistant manager at Golfers’ Warehouse in Hartford. “It is helpful for us, without a doubt.”
That increase is important, since during the days of the tournament as the championship sucks Connecticut’s golf enthusiasts to the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Industry shops then wait for their customers to return.
While the PGA Tour event gets people excited to play golf, the immediate impact is established players heading out to the links more often and with newer equipment. New golfers aren’t beating down the doors on courses or in retail shops in the days following the tournament.
“It is the same faces you normally see, only they come in a little more,” said Lee Della Bianca, course manager of Pine Valley Golf Course in Southington. “You know who was at the tournament when they come in because they do talk it up pretty good.”
During the week of the Travelers Championship, the event generates $9.9 million in direct economic impact on the state, according to a study of 2008 data by the Connecticut Golf Alliance. The result is 300 total jobs with nearly $7 million in total wages.
The more reaching, less tangible impact of the tournament is how it serves as the exciting showcase of an industry that has a $1.1 billion impact on the state economy, said Ron Drapeau, executive director of the Connecticut State Golf Association.
In terms of economic impact, golf has the same clout in Connecticut as the fast food industry, Drapeau said. The $1.1 billion is second only to Massachusetts’ $3.3 billion among the New England states.
“For a state with a fairly small landmass, golf is a substantial industry,” Drapeau said. “The Travelers is huge. The PGA Tour is the most exciting golf being played in the whole world, and every year we get that right here in Connecticut.”
Golfers’ Warehouse, which emerged from a structured bankruptcy in August, does see some first-time golfers coming in to buy equipment after having just attended the Travelers, such as children who went to the tournament with their parents, Majowicz said.
The tournament’s business impact for the retailers, though, tends to be more established golfers upgrading their equipment and switching to brands and clubs they saw the professionals use.
Revenues at Golfers’ Warehouse have decreased from the same time last year, so maybe this year’s Travelers will help those figures rebound, Majowicz said.
“It gets golf in people’s minds and that really helps us out,” Majowicz said. “Anything that builds up golf in the area is good.”
A lot of non-golfers attend the tournament, Della Bianca said, whether its wives with husbands, children with parents or friends of golf enthusiasts enjoying the many activities at the tournament. While these people won’t start up golf the next day, the seed is planted in their minds.
Typical new golfers seeking instruction at Pine Valley Golf Course are parents with their kids, college students meeting new people and expanding their horizons, men in their mid-30s switching away from more active sports such as softball, and more women in general, Della Bianca said. The biggest push of new golfers came 10-12 years ago after Tiger Woods joined the PGA Tour.
Hawk’s Landing Country Club in Southington has seen a 9 percent increase in revenues from 2009, which was up 5 percent from the year before, although club president Dan Paradis said the increase can be partly attributed to a recent renovation of the grounds.
“We get a lot of beginners, more than other courses, because our course is more beginner-friendly,” Paradis said. “A lot of women play our course and we get a lot of seniors, too.”
The new golfers aren’t coming right from the Travelers Championship, Paradis said, as the uptick in business following the tournament comes from a greater interest among course regulars. New golfers have emerged simply as golf has gotten more popular, and Connecticut’s PGA tournament contributes to that.
“There’s no question the tournament helps us out,” Paradis said. “People go and watch all these pros play, and it gets them the urge to want to go golfing.”