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Did you know?: True tales from the RBC Heritage

golfboysThe PGA Tour has a boy band

Professional golfers Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson have released two rap videos on YouTube, calling themselves the “Golf Boys.” The group’s original release, “Oh Oh Oh,” racked up more than six million hits and their follow-up tune, “2.0h,” amassed nearly 700,000 views after less than 24 hours online. The latest video features awkward dance moves, dubious costumes (Watson is shirtless, wearing a diaper at one point) and less-than-stellar rapping skills. The tune’s lyrics are about themselves, from the flat bill on Fowler’s hat to Mahan’s grizzly beard. The lyrics also poke fun at other golfers (we got some hot wings at Stuart Appleby’s, you couldn’t hit the side of a Ricky Barnes, I like olives in my Rory Sabbatini, etc.). The foursome released the video as a fundraiser to help provide clean water for the people of Ethiopia. Crane, Mahan and Fowler are expected to be here for the Heritage. 

The Greg Norman/Jamie Hutton story has a happy ending

The Heritage has produced many memorable moments over the years but none are more inspirational than Greg Norman’s come-from-behind victory in 1988 with 17-year-old leukemia victim Jamie Hutton cheering him on. For those who don’t remember, days before Hutton was scheduled for a bone marrow transplant, the Thursday’s Child organization sponsored a trip for Jamie and his mother to fly from Wisconsin to Hilton Head for the Heritage. The group even set up a meeting with Norman, who was Jamie’s favorite player. What was supposed to be a quick hello transformed into an unforgettable weekend. The family was scheduled to leave on Sunday but Norman chartered a private jet so they could watch the final round. After rallying from a four-stroke deficit, Norman needed to make a 6-foot putt for par on the final hole. He told himself, “This one is for Jamie,” and stroked it into the cup. Today, Hutton has defeated cancer and is alive and well in New York. 

Pete Dye was once mistaken for a drunken member of the grounds crew

Legendary golf course designer Pete Dye was raking a bunker on the 13th hole during the very first Heritage in 1969 when he overheard two spectators who were waiting for the players to come through. “Look at this incredible hole that Jack Nicklaus designed,” one of them said. Knowing his wife, Alice, had designed the short par-4 with the island of sand surrounding the green, Dye barked back, “This hole was designed by a beautiful and talented woman.” Dye then heard the other spectator mutter to his friend, “Can you believe the grounds crew gets drunk this early in the day?”

Showtime will profile Harbour Town Golf Links and Pete Dye

60 Minutes Sports has produced a program to be aired on Showtime during the April run-up to this year’s RBC Heritage. The show will profile Pete Dye, architect of Hilton Head Island’s famed Harbour Town Golf Links. Part of the program will feature the Harbour Town course, which Dye credits for kick-starting his career. Holes featured will be 13, 14, 15 and 18. The program will air four times on Showtime in April and will appear on free TV in July. 

The Heritage has found a way to repay Camilo Villegas

The biggest prize awarded to the winner of the Players Amateur is an exemption into the RBC Heritage. Camilo Villegas, famous for his spider-like pose while reading putts, won the Players Am in 2003 but elected to play in the SEC Championship for the University of Florida instead. His decision allowed tournament director Steve Wilmot to give that exemption to another deserving golfer. Villegas has qualified for the Heritage six times with two top 10 finishes. In 2011, he changed his schedule to support the event while it was searching for a title sponsor. This year Villegas asked the Heritage to return the favor after failing to qualify. Wilmot did just that, granting Villegas one of four available sponsors exemptions. 

Marian McDuffie is a finalist for PGA Tour Volunteer of the Year

The 85-year-old Sea Pines resident has been volunteering at the Heritage almost half her life, starting with the very first event in 1969. She helps distribute close to 1,000 uniforms for other volunteers at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church on Pope Ave. She also takes turns manning the volunteer tent the week of the tournament and provides snacks and beverages to other volunteers. She is one of five volunteers in the running for the national award, which will be announced in December. 

The RBC Heritage has invitational status

Think the RBC Heritage is special? You’re right. The Heritage is one of only five tournaments given invitational status by the PGA Tour. Invitational tournaments have smaller fields and more freedom than full-field open tournaments in determining which players are eligible to participate. Invitationals are not required to fill their fields using the PGA Tour Priority Ranking System and there is no open qualifying. The other four invitationals are the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, the Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National. 

The Heritage nearly folded in 1986

The PGA Tour came close to pulling the plug on the Heritage 27 years ago when Hilton Head Holdings, the parent company of Sea Pines Co., filed for bankruptcy. The golf course was in poor condition due to lack of funds. Joseph B. Fraser Jr., John Curry and Sol Blatt formed a plan to save the tournament, enlisting a group of local businessmen to create the Heritage Classic Foundation, a non-profit organization that became the general sponsor of the Heritage. The men also raised $300,000 to restore the course to playable condition and acquired the resources needed for the $1 million purse. The foundation decided any proceeds left over from the tournament would be donated to local charities. Since 1986, the foundation has donated more than $23 million. 

Bike parking is free

In an effort to reduce traffic on roads during the 45th RBC Heritage, tournament officials are offering free bicycle parking and entrance into Sea Pines Resort for ticket holders and volunteers. Cyclists mush show their tournament or volunteer badges when entering the main gate on Greenwood Drive or the ocean gate on South Forest Beach Drive. Access will only be granted during tournament hours. Bikes can be parked at the tennis courts adjacent to the Harbour Town Golf Links clubhouse along Lighthouse Road or the parking lot near the 13th green along Plantation Drive. 

Boo Weekley has a secret for no-see-ums

Two-time Heritage champion Boo Weekley loves Hilton Head Island and Harbour Town Golf Links but he’s not a fan of those pesky sand gnats. In 2009 the folksy, self-proclaimed redneck learned from a Seattle golf pro that a few dabs of mouthwash on exposed skin would keep the invisible pests from biting. His first attempt didn’t go so well. “I tried with Scope, but they like Scope,” he said. His second attempt was with Listerine and it worked like a charm. Plus, wearing Listerine comes with added benefits. “It makes me smell good, too.” Weekley said. “And then, if I need some mouthwash, I can just lick it off my arms and I can fix that, too.”

Some items are prohibited on the golf course

Cameras can be used during the practice rounds and pro-ams Monday through Wednesday but are not allowed during the tournament Thursday through Sunday. Other prohibited items on the golf course are radios, MP3 players, signs or banners, coolers, backpacks and other packages larger than a small purse. Items can be checked at the ticket office next to the clubhouse. 

The tournament infuses $80 million into the state each year

The number come from a 2010 Clemson Economic Impact Study. Some 100,000 fans attend the tournament each year and CBS and the Golf Channel air 15 hours of live coverage across the United States, Europe, South America and the Orient. 

Autographs are allowed

Want to score your favorite golfer’s autograph? An autograph policy is only in effect for official competition rounds (Thurday-Sunday). Once a player’s round has started, he may not sign autographs until the round is complete. Autographed items are limited to a size of 8.5 x 11 inches and clipboards are not allowed. A good place to meet golfers is behind the 18th green, near where the golf carts take them back to the clubhouse. Identify a golfer by the last name on his golf bag or on the back of his caddie’s vest.  

Bleacher seating is first come, first serve

There are bleachers located throughout Harbour Town Golf Links free for spectators on a first-come, first-served basis. Wheelchair-accessible viewing areas are located at 13, 15 and 18. There are also observation areas created around the golf course which are outlined in the daily pairings sheet available at the tournament each day. Spectators in front of the bleachers or next to gallery roping are asked to kneel or sit down. 

An alligator makes for one heck of a water hazard

Professional golfer Brian Gay and caddie Kip Henley had a memorable run-in with a gator in last year’s tournament. On the 15th hole, Gay’s ball landed near a 10-footer (small by Sea Pines standards) sunning itself on the bank. Before Gay could attempt his fourth shot, Henley used a rake and chased it back into the nearby pond. A scarier encounter happened a few years earlier, when an over-served fan stripped down and jumped into a lagoon on the 10th fairway. After a few water ballet moves, his friends noticed a gator swimming towards him. The fan got away but the alligator kept one of his flip-flops. 

 The Heritage was originally played on Thanksgiving Weekend

The RBC Heritage has a coveted spot on the PGA Tour, usually one week after the Masters in Augusta, Ga. That hasn’t always been the case. From 1969 to 1972 it took place on Thanksgiving Weekend (take that, Dallas Cowboys). In 1973, it was played in September. From 1974 to 1982 the Heritage took place in March, usually two weeks before the Masters. The tournament has been played in April since 1983. 

State history is behind the tournament’s relationship with Scotland

Charles Fraser decided to build the Heritage’s traditions after researching the South Carolina Golf Club, America’s first golf course and golf club. In 1786 the club was formed and established “Harleston Green” in what is now downtown Charleston. The term “green fee” is thought to have evolved from dues paid by members to maintain the course. While the club is now a memory, its heritage and tradition live on at Hilton Head’s annual professional golf tournament. 

 You can score a Heritage license plate, too

Ever see those Heritage Classic Foundation license plates around town? You don’t have to be a member of the foundation or even a big shot to get one for your favorite ride. The plate is available to anyone with a vehicle registered in South Carolina. It costs $75 every two years. In the first year, $66 is donated to the foundation. Each time the plate comes up for renewal, $71 is given to the foundation’s charity programs. Show the world how much you love the Heritage while driving up charity dollars!