Dan Orlovsky, Jim Mora bond over UConn football and golf at Travelers Championship Pro-Am

UConn football coach Jim Mora, former UConn field hockey coach Nancy Stevens, PGA Tour player Aaron Wise and UConn men's hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh formed one group Wednesday in the Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am.

UConn football coach Jim Mora, former UConn field hockey coach Nancy Stevens, PGA Tour player Aaron Wise and UConn men's hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh formed one group Wednesday in the Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am.

Mike Anthony / Hearst Connecticut Media

CROMWELL — UConn football coach Jim Mora did the bare minimum in preparing to play golf in Wednesday’s Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am.

“Yesterday, in the defensive backs coaches office, I took a couple putts, and I went down to the driving range for about five minutes,” Mora said before teeing off at TPC River Highlands. “I haven’t had a lot of time. We’ve been heavy into recruiting and developing our own players. That’s kind of my focus right now.”

As it should be, of course.

Former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky approached Mora near the first tee, continuing a conversation that began on the range.

“He said if you’re a coach and you’re a good golfer,” Mora began …

“It means you’re a bad coach,” Orlovsky said, finishing the thought. “You’re not supposed to be a good golfer when you coach college sports.”

Mora had, arguably, the most complicated professional project to return to after a day of golf, rebuilding the Huskies football program. He played Wednesday with UConn coach hockey Mike Cavanaugh, former UConn field hockey coach Nancy Stevens and PGA Tour player Aaron Wise.

Orlovsky, UConn’s career leader in all major passing categories and one of the prominent figures in the rise before the fall, played in the following group with former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and tour player Tom Hoge.

Orlovsky, who played football for Randy Edsall at UConn and often played golf with him at the Travelers’ Pro-Am, has known of Mora for years. He got to know him a little bit, too, working on several ESPN shows together in Mora’s time between being coach at UCLA and UConn.

“I still stay pretty connected to him and the program and people within the program,” Orlovsky said of Mora. “I hear great things. You hear a lot of really good energy. We were chatting on the driving range about some of the transfers that have come in. I know some of the transfers just from calling games. ... I think he’s doing a really good job of infusing hope and excitement. Obviously it’s got to translate to on the field, which everyone is pulling for, but I know a lot of us are behind him for sure.”

Cavanaugh has played in the Pro-Am most of his eight years as UConn coach, was reportedly in line this spring to become coach at Boston College, where he previously spent 18 years as an assistant. In April, however, Cavanaugh put out a statement affirming his commitment to UConn and signed a six-year contract.

“I was honored that Boston College even considered me for the job, and I had a great 18 years there,” Cavanaugh said Wednesday. “It was fantastic. I met my wife there. My kids were baptized on the campus. I have a lot of fond memories and some great hockey memories. But that chapter is over, and I’m excited about the chapter we’re still writing now.”

UConn broke ground on a $70 million arena in April 2021.

The two headliners of the pro-am — UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, and actor Bill Murray — withdrew. But the field had many of the usual faces, from actors and performers (Christopher Jackson, Javier Colon, Dane DeHaan) to sports figures with local ties.

UConn women’s associate head coach Chris Dailey played — and piped her tee shot straight down the first fairway after expressing some nerves.

“This is the most stressful part,” she said before being introduced. “You don’t want to kill anyone.”

Auriemma was not feeling well. Dailey said various illnesses have swept through the team. Aaliyah Edwards and Ayanna Patterson weren’t feeling well on Tuesday and missed a team appearance at Auriemma’s charity golf event in West Hartford.

Asked about the basketball program, Dailey said, “The summer access is a great time for our kids, especially the freshmen. They get acclimated and it gives us and op to work with the returners.”

Orlovsky was excited to play with Wakefield.

“I’m going to find ways to run my mouth, no matter what,” Orlovsky said. “I think Wakefield can play a little bit.”

Wakefield said, “I’m not a good trash talker, but I will fist pump it at the end if I beat him.”

Mora just wanted to get his round going, get through it unscathed and get back to coaching football.

“I’ve never teed off in front of people and I haven’t played a lot in a long time, so I’m a little bit stressed,” Mora said. “But I’ve really enjoyed my time here. It’s great to be out here and meet new people in this great state and I’ve just really enjoyed being at UConn. I think we’re going to build something really special. We’re getting a lot of support from the state. It’s an exciting time.”

Of playing with Cavanaugh and Stevens, Mora said, “I’m just bringing up the rear with those two. But I’m looking forward to spending time with them and picking their brains about coaching. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re in, you can always learn from other coaches.”

mike.anthony@hearstmediact.com; @ManthonyHearst