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First round of Travelers Championship tees off with COVID-19 restrictions

Travelers Championship

CROMWELL, Conn. (WTNH) — Most of the best players in the world are out on the course right now at TPC River Highlands. Just outside the property, you’d never know it. There are no lines of people streaming in the gates and no roar of the crowd after a great shot.

One thing remains the same. There will be terrific golf played these four days in Cromwell. It’s a beautiful course that all the players love. It’s just that this year, they will have it all to themselves.

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“It’s very odd to not see anybody at all around. It’s so quiet,” said Cromwell resident Paula White. “I was just saying to my husband it’s to deathly quiet right now. Depressing.”

She is one of several people we saw taking long walks along roads that are usually bumper to bumper with cars. Laura Benedetto’s dog Dexter was enjoying a nice long walk through a field that is usually a busy parking lot.

“It’s surreal. We’re so used to the people being around,” Benedetto said. “We usually get passes so we’re in and out all day long. We have a party in our front yard.”

No fans means a lot fewer customers at Mitchell’s restaurant.

“Normally, we definitely get an increase in sales,” said Mitchell’s owner Tom Barnes. “A lot of regulars that keep coming back year to year come back to the restaurant.”

But there are still plenty of people working at the tournament, and they know Mitchell’s.

“People from the PGA, they like to stop in, they say it’s their favorite restaurant,” said Barnes. “Also the maintenance workers.”

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For all those folks still showing up, they all have their temperature checked when they come in. Once they are at their posts, some are probably a little bored with so few cars to park and badges to check. 

So far five players have dropped out because either they tested positive for Covid-19 or someone they know did. The rest of the field is still playing. You will only see them on TV, though, unless you’re lucky enough to live right next to a couple of the holes. 

“We can walk the fence and we can see probably 2 altogether if we walk up and down our little area of the street,” said Benedetto. “We’re hoping for a better year next year.”

The other 16 holes she will have to watch on TV. Media coverage is also somewhat restricted due to the pandemic. Media passes are limited, and only crews that have gone through coronavirus testing protocol can go inside.

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