It was quarter of 2 and Andrew Renehan had just finished mowing the 16th tee at TPC River Highlands.
He adjusted his navy baseball cap, which kept a shock of sweat-soaked, dirty blond hair from falling into his eyes, brushed his blue groundskeeper's shirt and stepped up behind the wheel of his John Deere.
Satisfied with the 22 1-foot-wide cuts he had made, Renehan then drove around the course's signature lake toward the 16th green, his trailer one of many within sight on a hot Sunday afternoon. Two unkempt holes remained before Renehan could leave for the day, knowing full well that the project he completed would be appreciated by many over the coming week but recognized by few.
The Travelers Championship begins at 9 a.m. today with an opening ceremony on the first tee, and if estimates in recent years remain constant, by the time the winner hoists the championship trophy late Sunday, nearly 250,000 people will have descended on the course to watch the local stop on the PGA Tour.
"I think it will be a lot of fun," said Renehan, a Southington resident.
Tournament play for the field of 156 doesn't begin until Thursday, but the golfers can start practicing today, so everything must be in order.
Without order, there's chaos.
That's why Renehan, 20, found himself in his eighth hour of work with still more to be done.
Tim Kapushinski, an equipment operator, was maintaining the bunker behind the 17th green, and a team employed by The Golf Channel was constructing a handrail at the studio along the 18th fairway.
"It's been getting crazier and crazier around here," Kapushinski said.
The tournament, sponsored by The Travelers since 2007, is in its 27th year at TPC River Highlands, a par-70, 6,844-yard course along the Connecticut River. The course will play host to one of the event's strongest fields in recent years. Ten of the players entered are in the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking, including two-time British Open winner Padraig Harrington and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.
Former winners Stewart Cink (1997, 2008), Hunter Mahan (2007), and J.J. Henry (2006), a Fairfield native, are also among those returning, as is Vijay Singh, once the top-ranked golfer in the world.
Registration opened to players Sunday morning. Four had checked in by noon, including Brett Quigley, whose best finish in Cromwell was a tie for 20th in 2002, and 22-year-old Dustin Garza, who will be making his pro debut. Many who played in the U.S. Open will arrive on a charter today at Bradley International Airport.
The whirring of drills heard Sunday will soon be replaced by the roars of the crowd.
"If we haven't taken care of it by now, we're not going to be able to do a thing about it," said tournament director Nathan Grube. "We've been working for the last 51 weeks to pull this off and make it happen and make it happen very well. Our goal is to have people walk away going, 'Wow, they got better this year than they did last year.' "Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun