By BRIAN JENNINGS
It started as a phone call about a hole-in-one and then led to something more.
The TV is on in the living room and it’s Sunday, but it’s not just any old Sunday. It’s Masters Sunday. She sat at the table in one of her many red, Traveler’s collared shirts drinking coffee out of her Masters mug, like a kid in a candy shop.
From top to bottom, her walls are covered with pictures and memorabilia that scream out the word golf. Sue Graziano is a true golf fanatic.
Some golfers go their whole lives without getting a single hole-in-one, but Graziano has two. On a trip in Kissimmee, Florida with her fiancée earlier this year, Graziano made her second hole-in-one on the par-4 ninth hole with her driver at West Villages’ Crane’s Bend at Orange Lake Resort.
“It was unbelievable to watch the ball go towards the hole and think no, this isn’t going to happen,” said Graziano. “I’m going to be on the green and that’s more than a green-in-regulation.”
Graziano was playing with her fiancée, who had just started golfing, and they met up with two guys from Massachusetts on the eighth hole.
“They said, ‘We think it went in the hole,’” said Graziano. “My fiancée took a ride up there in the cart. He’s up there on the green and he throws his arms in the air and says, ‘Yes!’ He was shaking after he saw that.”
Graziano’s first hole-in-one came at Hawk’s Landing where she has been a member since the ownership and the name changed from the old Patton Brook Country Club. It was on the par-3, 12th hole with a pitching wedge from 100 yards away. She became a president of a Thursday night lady’s league at Hawk’s Landing and held the position for years. She wanted more and couldn’t stop.
Graziano may have always been around the game of golf, traveling around to courses with her father, brother, and uncles, but it wasn’t until her mid-30s when she started getting into the game seriously.
“My ex-husband got me into it,” Graziano said. “I got better every time we went out to play and he didn’t. I was beating him on a regular basis. We tossed it back and forth in a funny way, but I think he was glad to see me play well.”
Graziano began taking lessons from John Vitale at Hawk’s Landing after a few years of trying to develop a swing. Golf consumed her and she only wanted more. If she couldn’t play it, she had to be around it, someway, somehow.
One of her lady golf partners decided that they wanted to volunteer at the Traveler’s Championship.
“Her son caddies for the Pro-Am,” said Graziano. “He said, ‘You know mom, this would be something that you would really like to do.’ We were assigned to Rainer Ridge where we were recruited by one of the hole captains of the Traveler’s Championship.”
Ever since then, Graziano has been volunteering on holes 16 and 17 at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Graziano has been volunteering at the Traveler’s Championship for over a decade now and said she enjoys every moment of it.
“It’s just so much fun,” said Graziano. “I get to meet so many people. Every year it’s a big reunion because most of the people do the same thing. I actually take vacation time because I love it so much. We have a blast.”
One of Graziano’s favorite days during the week of the Traveler’s Championship is Wednesday’s Pro-Am day. One golfer that earned Graziano’s respect during her time volunteering was Rory Sabatini. Sabatini had just started wearing his new safari hat from having portions of his skin removed from bad sunburn.
“It was Pro-Am Day and I was walking around with this 15-year-old kid,” said Graziano. “He walked up to Rory and asked for his autograph. Rory looked at him and said, ‘Young man, do you have any sunscreen on?’ The boy said no. Rory said, ‘You need to promise me that you won’t come out with sunscreen again.’ He went to his bag and pulled out a tube of the sunscreen his dermatologist told him to use and gave it to the kid. It was such a teaching moment. I was impressed.”
If play is suspended due to weather, Graziano might even drive pro golfers to the facilities with the rescue vans. When she gets the chance, she tries to get autographs of pro golfers in the tournament and has had the opportunity to meet a lot of up-and-coming and well-known names on tour.
Graziano is not only an avid golfer, but an avid photographer as well and also tries to take pictures of as many pro golfers as she can while volunteering at the Traveler’s Championship. Pro golfers like Brandt Snedeker, Aaron Baddeley, Hunter Mahan, Kevin Streelman, K.J. Choi, Brad Faxon, and Padraig Harrington line her living room walls.
She has also taken pictures with celebrities and athletes, such as George Lopez, Chris Berman, and Doug Flutie.
Mounted on her wall is a shadow box of golf balls from every course she had visited and played. Graziano has played golf courses up and down the east coast, but has a desire to play at least one course in all 50 states in the country, as one of her wishes on her bucket list.
This year was the first year that Graziano didn’t volunteer at the Traveler’s Championship, but said she plans to continue volunteering for years to come.