Rainaud's living out his dream

Adam Rainaud watches his drive on the 10th hole during the first round of the Travelers Championship Thursday at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Rainaud, an assistant pro at Black Hall Club, shot a 2-over-par 72.
Adam Rainaud watches his drive on the 10th hole during the first round of the Travelers Championship Thursday at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Rainaud, an assistant pro at Black Hall Club, shot a 2-over-par 72. Fred Beckham/AP Photo

Cromwell — Standing on the first tee about to make his PGA tournament debut, the usually calm and cool Adam Rainaud felt uncharacteristically nervous.

Thursday was truly a special day for the 28-year-old Rainaud.

He lived out his dream before a large gallery of supporters from his hometown of South Hadley, Mass., and from Old Lyme where he now lives and works as an assistant pro at Black Hall Club. They cheered his successes and groaned for his mistakes.

No wonder it was a bit overwhelming.

Rainaud handled it all like a pro, shooting a 2-over 72 in the opening round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.

He appreciated the support from Adam's Army.

"The gallery was even better than I expected," Rainaud said. "Even the guys I played with said that I might have had the biggest gallery out there. I definitely had the most boisterous crowd, which is nice. It was exactly how I wanted it.

"Normally, I'm never nervous on the first tee, but today I was a little bit."

Since first swinging a golf club at six years old, Rainaud has dreamt about playing on the PGA tour. In elementary school, he would draw pictures of golf courses and clubhouses.

"I told everyone that one day I'm going to be on the PGA tour," Rainaud said.

From his first tee shot to his final putt, Rainaud thoroughly enjoyed every minute of his first PGA round.

Even a few bumpy spots couldn't ruin his experience.

"Overall, I thought I hit the ball great," Rainaud said. "It all just comes down to a couple bounces here and there and a couple of putts. I felt like it could have been a really good round."

Rainaud, an All-American at Louisville, earned a spot in the Travelers Championship by winning the Spring PGA Stroke Play Tournament in mid-May.

He played steady golf on the front nine Thursday, finishing with eight pars and a bogey to stand at 1-over.

The back nine started brilliantly for Rainaud, who drained short birdie putts on both the par 3, 11th and the par 5, 13th, to reach 1-under.

"I felt good about everything," Rainaud said.

Then trouble struck at the 15th hole, a tricky par four.

His tee shot just missed rolling into the green-side water but left a terrible lie. Things got worse from there as he ended up with a double bogey.

"I probably should have taken a drop when I tried to play it from the hazard," Rainaud said. "It was literally on a little tuff of grass hanging over above the water. I thought if I hit it aggressively … I could just pop it up. Unfortunately, I got a little bit too underneath it and it just didn't go anywhere.

"I had to take a drop and then I didn't get it up and down."

After a three-putt led to a bogey on No. 16, Rainaud recovered nicely, finishing with two pars.

When he drained his final putt on the 18th green, he received a loud ovation.

Rob Barbeau, the head pro at Old Lyme Country Club, was part of Rainaud's fan club.

"He belongs out here," Barbeau said. "He's talented. He's a great kid, one of the nicest kids you'll ever meet."

Rainaud now has some work to do today to make the cut. He begins his second round at 2 p.m. from the 10th tee.

No matter what happens, he'll always remember his PGA debut.

"(These) have been the four best days of my life at least as far as golf-wise by far," Rainaud said. "It's fun just to know that people care about you. … It was raining out this morning and there were still hundreds of people on the first tee. I thought because of the weather that they were all going to just come on the back nine.

"It was exactly what I hoped for and even better than that. I'm so happy that this is my first PGA tour event so close to where I live now and where I'm from. I'm so glad that it's here and not any other place."

g.keefe@theday.com

Adam Rainaud hits his approach shot on the 9th hole Thursday during the first round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Rainaud, an assistant pro at Black Hall Club, shot a 2-over-par 72.
Adam Rainaud hits his approach shot on the 9th hole Thursday during the first round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Rainaud, an assistant pro at Black Hall Club, shot a 2-over-par 72. Fred Beckham/AP photo
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