Locals Are Afraid Lack of a Title Sponsor May End Hilton Head’s PGA Tour Event
By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com Blogger
A great era could be coming to an end.
The PGA’s annual post-Masters stop for the past few decades has been the lovely Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. From 1987-2010, the event was known at the MCI or Verizon Heritage Classic.
But after 2010 Verizon (which took over MCI) pulled out of the tournament, leaving it without a title sponsor for 2011 and leaving it with the tournament’s future in doubt. It is still taking place in this year – April 21-24, two weeks after the Masters – but locals are in a near panic that this might be the last year for the event.
And that would be a shame.
In the pre-PubClub.com years, I covered this tournament. I was a sports writer for the Savannah News-Press in nearby Savannah, Ga. My assignment was sidebars, which are features that accompany the main story. That could mean a feature on one of the golfers in contention or some good human interest angle that I uncovered.
One of my favorite stories I ever wrote, in fact, was one of the latter. On Friday, I noticed that an unknown by the name of Jim Hallet was blistering the course; he was on a record-setting pace after the front nine. So I hustled out and caught up to him on the 10th hole. When I approached the green, there was a very attractive youthful blonde in the gallery (which only consisted of a half-dozen people) who was anxiously watching Hallet line up a putt. “That must be his wife or girlfriend,” I surmised.
So I went up and struck up a conversation with her and quickly confirmed that she was indeed his young bride. She was both bubbly and nervous at the same time and full of great stories about a struggling golfer on the PGA Tour.
She told me they were staying in what passed for a budget motel on Hilton Head, needed any and all prize money that came their way and were seeking the cheapest food places on the island (and, oh by the way, could I offer any recommendations). All this was golden information, something no other reporter could get from a post-round interview or press conference.
Hallet tied the course record of 63 that day and while he blew up the next, I will forever be appreciative to his bubbly bride for giving me one of the best sidebars I ever wrote.
But that’s only a part of the story of the Heritage. It’s one of the area’s top events. People come from all over south Georgia and South Carolina for it. Like any good event, it’s much more about the scene than what is actually happening; the golf is merely the excuse.
It’s when the beautiful girls from throughout the region, cooped up inside for much of the winter, get to first show off their new spring outfits. They have cocktails on the course, walk around to the yachts in the harbor – this is prime viewing area – flirt with the captains and selectively join whatever party options happen to come their way.
It’s when the men come out to meet the girls, hoping to temporarily compromise the ladies’ integrity by buying them several drinks at the raucous bar by the famous lighthouse off the 18th green called The Quarterdeck Lounge and Patio.
And it’s also the peak season of the no-see-’ems, the nasty biting little gnats that get in one’s eyes, hair and ears. Avon’s Skin So Soft seems to be their only deterrent.
There are so many personal good times and memories from the Heritage Classic and the Quarterdeck it’s impossible to include them all here. Suffice to say that I’m fairly quick on the keyboard when the fun comes calling so was I always among the first reporters to file my stories. The PGA actually puts beer out in the press room for reporters (but not until 4 p.m.!), so I would grab a couple, walk the course, then squeeze into the bar at the Quarterdeck.
Ahh, if only PubClub.com had the money to take over as title sponsor. Then, it would be a REAL party!