Travelers executive VP Andy Bessette to enter Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame on Monday

When the PGA Tour golfers begin to show up for the Travelers Championship this week, Andy Bessette will be on site at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell like he usually is, greeting each one.

Travelers has been about establishing relationships with the golfers, their families, their caddies since taking over title sponsorship in 2007. In turn, the golfers commit to playing Connecticut’s biggest sporting event on an annual basis.

A number of those golfers have praised the work Travelers has done to establish TPC River Highlands as one of their favorite tour stops. Now they get to celebrate Bessette’s induction into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.

Bessette, the executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Travelers, will be inducted into the hall of fame Monday night at Hartford Marriott Downtown. Also being inducted is the late Bruce Edwards, a longtime caddie on the PGA Tour, mainly for Tom Watson.

“We’ve always tried to make it the best event possible. We want to have a world-class tournament,” Bessette said.

Bessette helped negotiate the contract with the PGA Tour to bring Travelers on board as the title sponsor. He said he gave Jay Fishman, then the chairman and CEO at Travelers, three names to run the tournament.

Fishman told Bessette to try it himself.

“I gave him three more names in 2008. Jay said, ‘Nah, you do it for another year,’” Bessette said. “I kept (giving him names) and eventually Jay said to ‘run it until further notice.’”

Closing in on two decades later, Bessette is still here.

“The bottom line is we would not be where we are with this professional golf tournament without Andy Bessette,” said Travelers tournament director Nathan Grube, who took over that role in 2005. “There obviously are a lot of people, sponsors and volunteers and support. But he has been the champion of this event since the beginning with his dedication and hard work and commitment. Andy knows how important this event is to the state.”

Among Bessette’s other responsibilities at Travelers are event management, community relations and corporate real estate.

Bessette, 68, is also on the board of trustees at the University of Connecticut, his alma mater. He was an All-American hammer thrower and was on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow.

“One comment I will make (in his induction speech) is three things: This may be first time CSGA has ever inducted somebody into the hall of fame who is a 15 handicap; maybe a first time inducted an Olympian, not in golf; and the first time a Congressional Gold Medal recipient has been inducted,” Bessette said.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the “highest civilian honor,” according to Bessette. It is given for distinguished achievement and appreciation on a national level. Each member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that would have participated in the Summer Olympics received one.

Bessette said he went to the White House to receive his.

He also serves on the UConn Health Center board of directors and the board of governors at Hartford Hospital.

Bessette has helped extend the title sponsorship between Travelers and the PGA Tour three several times. The current deal runs through 2030.

Edwards, a Wethersfield native, caddied for Greg Norman in addition to two stints with Watson, who won eight major championships. Edwards even worked for Watson while battling ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Edwards died in April 2004.; @nhrJoeMorelli