Swag Is Top Shelf At Travelers Championship

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trav3 (1)The 2013 PGA Travelers Championship officially tees off Monday and that means a week of professional golf, parties,  national exposure, celebrity sightings, and for the lucky ones who play in Monday’s Aetna Tournament Players and Wednesday’s Travelers Celebrity Pro/Am, swag, wonderful swag.

No run-of-the-mill swag for these participants with the respective $3,250 or $8,000 entry fee at the Travelers. No, this signature Connecticut championship, managed by The Greater Hartford Community Foundation, has stepped it up when it comes to the freebies the elite amateur players will take home. Forget mere golf balls, wind breakers and tees for this group. At these special events at the TPC River Highlands course in Cromwell, players enjoy a very personal experience, the chance to “shop” for first-class loot.

Before play each day, the 250 amateurs who pony up the big money to play on either day trav1receive 1,200 “points” that can be used for “purchases” from a tent full of top shelf stuff ranging from fine jewelry and sunglasses to luggage and golf clubs.

“We started this a few years ago,” said tournament director Nathan Grube, noting that the committee wanted to do something a bit different from the mass-distributed “swag bags” that are usually given out at most tournaments. “Most of our charity dollars from these two days are raised from the pro/am play,” he said. “We talked about how to make the experience better and more unique and the idea of the more personalized shopping was developed.”

And personal it is. The array of choices go beyond golf clubs and parkas, and include something for everyone.

Amtrav3 (2)ong the items featured this year, a $200 Tiffany “Infinity” sterling silver pendant, a Kindle Fire, a $250 Club Glove rolling duffle and $200+ Maui Jim sunglasses.

But if you insist on golf products, also featured this year is a $300+ Taylormade R1 driver and $100+ Summitt Golfwear.

And the list goes on.

Late Sunday and early Monday vendors will bring boxes of their loot to a special tent at the course and then open it up to the amateur players where the perusing begins. One point does not equal one dollar, Grube noted, explaining that vendors determine the number of points an item will “cost.”

For those who are doing the shopping,

“Actually I have already kind of made a list,” said amateur player and Travelers veteran Ryan McDonald, who works for IDS, a technology company in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I love the way they do this because you can pick what you want instead of ending up with stuff you give to your brother-in-law or store in a closet somewhere,” he said as he prepares to travel to Connecticut to play.

And one of the other perks when it comes to swag shopping, Travelers-style?

“It’s not all golf stuff and it’s not all for men,” he said. “I have brought my wife some nice jewelry from here. I mean I’m going out of town for a few days to play golf, it is pretty nice to bring something nice back to her.”

Grube notes that the concept is great for the shoppers. But it does carry some risk for vendors because no one really knows what the popular items will be until the shopping begins.

“We didn’t want a situation where there would be sample items and players would choose and then items be shipped to them,” explained Grube. “We wanted it to be tangible.”

Vendors are paid a negotiated price for the items they give away based on the number of points they accumulate from shoppers.

The upside is vendors think long and hard when they decide what to bring to entice the players.

“This system means they have to have their stuff here and take the risk of whether it is going to move or not, “ said Grube. “So every vendor puts his or her best foot forward.”

“It is a risk but we do our best to put out something that will move,” said one vendor, who asked not to be identified. “This is not just about handing out stuff, this is about advertising for us at a premiere tournament. “We want people to chose our stuff not only for the immediate exposure, but with the hopes that when it comes time to make future retail purchases, they will come to us.”

“We try to keep it fun and light,” said Grube about the unique shopping experience.

“I play in a lot of tournaments and by far this is one of the best and much nicer than most when it comes to the gifts you walk away with,” said McDonald. “I can’t wait to go shopping.” 


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