Former Litchfield Resident Bruce Berlet Receives Honor From Travelers. By John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Veteran sports writer Bruce Berlet has covered so many Travelers Championships that he couldn’t remember who won the first one he wrote about. That was back in 1971 and the former Litchfield resident and sports standout at Litchfield High School has been a presence in the media tent at the tournament every year since.
Berlet received another feather in his press hat when he was named this year’s Ralph Hunt Media Award winner.
The Travelers gives the honor to someone each year for contributions to the tournament over the years. Berlet, who was inducted into the Connecticut State Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2009, was thrilled with the honor and it is well deserved.
“I can’t remember who won in 1971, but I know the next year Lee Trevino beat out Lee Elder,” said Berlet, who now lives in Glastonbury with his wife, Nancy, who, by the way was a sports writer at the Hartford Courant, where Berlet worked for many years and the couple met. He now is an independent writer working for several publications, Berlet certainly has had a career immersed in golf.
He has covered 35 Masters, 28 U.S. Opens, six PGA Championships and three Ryder Cups. He joined the Hartford Courant during his senior year at the University of Connecticut. He met then Hartford Courant sports editor Bill Lee through the Connecticut State Golf Association, which Berlet received a scholarship from while in college.
Berlet picked up the game of golf at the age of 10.
“I remember I was playing my third round ever at Litchfield County Club. I almost made a hole-in-one on the third hole. I didn’t see the ball rolling on the green but it must have hit the flagstick because it was behind the hole on the lip. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to getting a hole-in-one.”
Berlet went on to play golf at Litchfield High School, where he also was a member of the basketball, soccer and baseball teams. His soccer and basketball teams won state titles.
“When I joined the Courant full-time the first golf tournament I ever covered was the Midway Open at Keney Park Golf Course. Actually, that was my first assignment for the Courant.”
Berlet, who doesn’t get to play a ton of golf these days having had to deal with several physical issues, became a proficient golfer, once playing to around a 4 handicap.
“One of my favorite moments covering golf was the 1977 Masters. I was walking with Tom Watson’s caddy, the late Bruce Edwards who couldn’t caddy the tournament back then because the pros had to all use local caddies. Watson hit a ball near to where we were in the rough off the fairway and some guy said, `Well, I wonder how he’s going to blow this one,’ because Tom had lost a few tournaments late. Well, Watson winds up winning by two shots and I wrote my story saying how I wondered how that guy who made the derogatory remark felt after Watson won.”
Another favorite tournament of his was the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club in Brookline, Ma., where the U.S. came from way back during the final day’s singles matches and clinched the Cup when Justin Leonard made a momentous long putt on the 17th hole.
“I have to say the best moment for me covering the Travelers Championship (which, of course, has been called by several other names and was once played at Wethersfield Country Club before it moved to its present site at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell) was the year Paul Azinger won. He holed out a bunker shot on 18 to win.”
His favorite player to work with?
“It has to be Fuzzy Zoeller. What a great guy and very down to earth. The game has changed so much since I started covering the PGA Tour. It’s much more of a business now.”
Berlet derives a lot of pleasure from playing golf with his grandson, 12-year-old Ryan, the son of his and his wife’s one daughter, Brooke. “Ryan loves the game,” Berlet said as a copy of a magazine with Bubba Watson on it that grandpa got autographed for his grandson sat on a table nearby.
“He plays other sports but he really likes golf.” Oh, by the way, the guy who won the first Travelers Championship Berlet worked was George Archer. But after covering 45 tournaments who can blame Berlet for forgetting that one.