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WilmotRBC Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot wasn’t born with a 9-iron in hand. In fact, when he first arrived on Hilton Head Island, the Moorestown, N.J., native considered himself more of a football, basketball and baseball guy.  Cut to 27 years later, and he is now a walking encyclopedia of golf, and close personal friends with some of the game’s biggest names. 

Sir William Innes may be the official mascot of the RBC Heritage, but Steve Wilmot is its driving force, and since taking over as tournament director in 1997, he has taken a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of credit. 

He has guided the tournament through dark times (the bankruptcy of WorldCom in 2003 and Verizon’s exit in 2011). He has been there through good times (the purse has more than tripled since 1997 and $23 million has been donated to local charities since his arrival). 

With the 45th RBC Heritage just around the corner (April 15-21), Wilmot took a few moments to speak with Golfer’s Guide about the 2013 event and his favorite Heritage memories. 

 

Save your puns; Brian Pope, principal of St. Francis Catholic School, has heard them all.

As soon as he steps through the door of a classroom he’s met by an enthusiastic chorus of fourth graders: “Good morning, Mr. Pope!” He returns the greeting then asks one student, by name, what she’s working on. It’s a class project about the dangers of drugs.

Brian Pope, the new principal of St. Francis by the Sea parish school on Hilton Head, prides himself on knowing all of his students on a first-name basis. “The relationships between teachers and students here is very close,” he tells a visitor, “and creating that special bond is part of our effort to build character as well as guide a child’s spiritual and educational growth.”

 

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Photo by Russell Greene

The north island Catholic school, home to 180 students from 4-year-old pre-kindergartners to eighth-grade middle school teens, has been his only professional home since earning a secondary education credential from New York’s Niagara University in 2001.  And the 32-year-old Pope, who indeed has heard every religious pun possible about his surname, seems well-suited for a position that puts him in charge of guiding youngsters toward productive futures.

Drew LaughlinDrew Laughlin is a rabid fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, “Rumpole of the Bailey” and jazz — the kind that “has something happening,” he says.

But Hilton Head Island’s first new mayor since 1995 is finding that he doesn’t have as much time to dedicate to those pursuits as he used to.

“People don’t realize that when the campaign is over, it’s not really over,” says the McKeesport, Pa., native and Hilton Head resident since 1977. “There’s a lot of  thanking to do, a lot of recognizing people’s efforts. I can’t just turn and forget the people who worked hard on me.”

Ken CribbSome in the Lowcountry view Ken Cribb as a miracle worker. Many simply call him “Coach Cribb.” Most are just thrilled he doesn’t take rejection hard. Cribb, 45, became the toast of the town this fall after he led Bluffton High School’s football team to unimaginable heights: The team reached the Lower State finals to cap a season that galvanized the Lowcountry.

For Cribb, it was the latest chapter in an already-impressive multi-sport coaching career. But, the coach says, it was also something much more special. Prior to the 2010 season, the Bobcats had never beaten archrival Hilton Head Island — or for that matter won more than four games in season, let alone a region championship or a playoff game. This year, Bluffton went 12-2, beat Hilton Head twice, and won its region and three playoff games.

For Cribb, those kinds of turnarounds have become something of a speciality. “I’ve gotten labeled as a builder,” says Cribb. “I’ve taken over many teams that were bad.”

Mel GibbensMel Gibbens is a bartender who isn’t rooted behind the taps and coolers.

The Oxford, England, native assisted Thomas Viljac in the building of the Old Town Dispensary in downtown Bluffton last year — you can see his work in the carpentry, plumbing and painting — before morphing into the manager of the pub. “This is the fifth bar I’ve built. I’m quite handy with my hands,” he says.

But if he’s not manning the taps, there’s a good reason: He’s probably wandering the globe on the cheap.

Christine BohnChef Christine Bohn, owner of Christine’s Café and Catering on Hilton Head, is carrying on a longstanding family tradition. When she was just 4 years old, Bohn began learning her way around the kitchen with her grandmother, Fannie; today, one of the signature items in her cafe is named Fannie’s Chicken Salad. “It’s a tribute to her. She loved cherries,” Bohn says.

She’s paying it forward, too: between preparing weekday lunches and creating lavish buffets for events around the Lowcountry, Bohn continues Fannie’s legacy by sharing her kitchen with her grandson Mack, 6. “I let him get up to the stove last weekend and flip pancakes. He loved it,” Bohn says.

Jane JudeJane Jude is seemingly everywhere these days: serving as new host of WHHI-TV’s “Talk of the Town,” moderating debates in the recent mayoral and Town Council elections, teaching leadership classes, working with Toastmasters and singing and leading the handbell choir at First Presbyterian Church.

Indeed, Jude possesses incredible levels of energy and resourcefulness, traits that have served her family at home as well. Jude’s son, Stewart, was struck with meningitis at three weeks old, and the illness has meant a lifelong challenge. But Jude has learned to turn them into positives. “You play the hand you’re dealt,” she says, adding that she home-schools the high school senior via an online charter school. Her daughter, Amelia, is a junior at SCAD.

Jude says Stewart’s illness greatly impacted his shortterm memory early on. But one day, while riding in the car when Stewart was in middle school, she started noticing that “he knew every word to the songs.” An idea was born: Jude began teaching Stewart some of his lessons in music, and the practice paid off. “He can still sing the words to Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If,’” she says proudly.

Dr. Patricia NorthDr. Patricia North practices what she preaches, both as a physician and a mom.

When she completed her first marathon in Chicago in October, her primary motivator was being an example to the people she most cares about: her two sons, Phillip and Clayton, and her patients.

“I was hoping to make an impression about the importance of a healthy lifestyle,” says North, 50, a native Ohioan who is board-certified in internal and geriatric medicine and has practiced on Hilton Head since 1996. She began running 10 years ago, she says, simply for the exercise benefits.

Pat GreenThere is a tragic yet life-saving byproduct of working at The Chocolate Tree for 30 years: You no longer smell the chocolate.

Pat Green, owner of the mouthwatering Carteret Street shop that since 1980 has been “sweetening the world one piece at a time,” says she’s become immune to that delicious aroma everyone else inhales with gusto when they walk in the store.

“If we’re cooking fudge or something that’s really strong, I will smell it,” she says. “And if I’m not there every day, I’ll smell it. But when I’m there all the time, I can’t. I really can’t.”

The ability to once again enjoy that delicious aroma is one more benefit of Pat’s impending retirement, set to start this summer when her sister and her son take over the business full-time.

John CrawshawJohn Crawshaw had no idea that the simple birthday gift of a book from his daughter could lead to a life-altering experience.

The book, “Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca” by Robert Bittlestone, presents Bittlestone’s theory that the location of Ithaca in Homer’s “The Odyssey” is in fact the western peninsula of the Greek island called Kefalonia today. After reading the book in 2007, Crawshaw became excited by the idea that Ithaca could actually be found.

“I thought (the book) was a wonderful detective story,” says Crawshaw, 60, a retired Heinz executive and Sea Pines resident who earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Classics from Oxford University in his home country of England. “The idea that a special place in Greek epic literature could be discovered I found extraordinary. I wanted to join that story, if I could.”