Defending Travelers champ Leishman hopes golf can help heal Newtown

Marc Leishman
Getty Images
Marc Leishman feels a connection to Connecticut, and wants to do something for the families of the Sandy Hook victims.
Pat Eaton-Robb
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 | 6:08 p.m.

CROMWELL, Conn. -- When Australian golfer Marc Leishman heard about the December shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, he immediately went to his computer to look at a map.

Leishman won his first and so-far only PGA Tour event last June at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, and wanted to see how far away Newtown was from the TPC River Highlands. The answer was about 48 miles.

''I couldn't believe how close it was,'' he said. ''It's terrible what happened there. Especially having a young son, I can't imagine sending him off to day care and then coming back and getting that phone call.''

Leishman, who finished fourth at this year's Masters, returns to Connecticut next month to defend his Travelers title and was back in Cromwell Tuesday for the tournament's annual media day.

He told The Associated Press he feels a connection to the state, and therefore to what happened, and would like to do something for the families of the victims, if it can be arranged.

''I would like to meet them,'' he said. ''I don't know what I would say to them, but I think to take their mind off that for, even if it was five seconds, would be good.''

Tournament Director Nathan Grube said he has been in contact with officials in Newtown since just after the shooting, trying to arrange something for the schoolchildren or the victims' families, or both. He said nothing has been finalized, but the talks between the Travelers and the town are still going on.

He said the trick has been orchestrating something that will be impactful, without being intrusive.

Since the shooting, Newtown has been visited by dozens of pro athletes and celebrities from many walks of life. Grube said while that is laudible, the tournament wants to do more.

''We have talked about having a clinic that could be a distraction for the kids, but also working with the school system on something more long-term and educational,'' he said. ''This tournament has been in Connecticut for 61 years and we're not going anywhere. We want to be a part of what the town is doing to heal for the long run.''

He also said they have been conscious about making sure whatever they do is focused on helping the town and not about public relations for the tournament or the PGA Tour.

But Grube expects there will be something in Cromwell in June to acknowledge what happened in Newtown on Dec. 14. And, if the victims' families want to meet with golfers, he said the tournament and the PGA Tour will be more than happy to make that happen.

On Tuesday, the tournament announced that Rickie Fowler, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner, Fredrik Jacobson and Padraig Harrington all have committed to join Leishman in this year's Travelers field.

The tournament already had received commitments from Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose, and Zach Johnson.