Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Head Ball Coach on the course

Posted 4/12/2012 11:29:00 AM

University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier continued a tradition of playing in Wednesday’s RBC Heritage Pro-Am despite being just three months removed from a left knee replacement. The recent surgery caused a hitch in the Head Ball Coach’s gait, but not in his obvious enjoyment of the day.

Playing with Australian professional Robert Allenby, Columbia businessman Chip Prezioso, Charleston attorney Joe Rice and at-large entry Mike Reid, Spurrier birdied the first hole for his team – “my best drive of the day, and my only highlight,” he said.

“The course played pretty tough today,” said Spurrier, who was followed by his wife, Jerri, and a large gallery of Gamecocks fans.

Still, the Hall of Famer took delight in needling other members of his group – and himself.

“Where’s the rest of this group?” he said with a laugh at the par-3 14th green, after all but Prezioso hit their tee shots in the water.

Like the Masters, but different

PGA Tour player Matt Kuchar, a favorite at the Masters a week ago and since his amateur days at Georgia Tech, said “there’s never going to be a place like Augusta. There’s never going to be anything that replicates the roars and excitement” of the back nine on Sunday at Augusta National. But that doesn’t mean “Kooch” has a problem getting excited about coming to Harbour Town for the RBC Heritage.

“I think I should have a good opportunity come Sunday around here, and hopefully get a different color jacket,” he said, referring to Augusta’s famed green jacket and the plaid jacket that goes to the winner at Harbour Town.

In fact, Kuchar said, the RBC Heritage – ranked second by PGA Tour players behind only the Masters as their favorite venue – has plenty to offer.

“It’s so unique as far as … everybody seems to stay within the confines of Sea Pines,” he said. “You never really need to leave Sea Pines. I don’t know that there’s any other place where people don’t leave the general resort area. You have a lot of different dinner options inside here. And if you want to have some evening fun, the marina (and) the harbor are just such a great social area.

“It’s so unique to have everything close, where you can just bump into so many people, having a good time, enjoying themselves, players out having a good time. I think most of the time (on the Tour), people go their separate ways to dinners, to different hotels. Here, it’s such a fun family place. People rent condos (and) it’s nice to have a kitchen and living room when you’ve got the kids around, (rather) than trying to live out of a standard hotel room.”

Kuchars’s family stays with friends from Atlanta who own a home on the island. He said Hilton Head is “a big second-home community for Atlanta folks.”

He also had praise for Harbour Town Golf Links. “The golf course is really so much fun to play, because there are so many shots that have to be hit. Even if you’re in the fairway, every hole you’ve got to play different shots … little fades, little draws, low hooks, low cuts. It’s something that requires so much skill.

“You heard about how (Masters winner) Bubba Watson (saying) he feels better in the trees because it forces him to hit one particular shot, and he can pull off that one particular shot. (At Harbour Town) you get to feel a little bit like Bubba Watson for the week.”

Attention getter

John Daly attracts a crowd wherever he plays, diminished skills and results notwithstanding. Of course, some of that is because of his wild wardrobes – especially his trademark Loudmouth pants, one of his sponsors – that he takes delight in showing off.

Wednesday’s pro-am was no exception. Daly, much slimmed down from his former overweight size, strolled Harbour Town in a red shirt festooned with logos and black trousers with images of playing cards on them, as if he’d spilled a deck of cards.

A former college golfer at Arkansas, Daly said his alma mater needs to pursue “(former NFL coaches) Jon Gruden or Bill Cower” to replace head coach Bobby Petrino, who was fired Tuesday.

Checking out his work

Architect Pete Dye hung out Wednesday at the 18th green with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, as the 86-year-old “Marquis de Sod” took a day to see how players reacted to changes to the course he first completed in 1969, just in time for the first Heritage.

The responses seemed mixed to the “upgrades,” which added about 130 yards to Harbour Town, from 6,970 yards to its current 7,101 – still short by modern PGA Tour standards.

On the front nine, Dye added berms and replaced a bunker behind the green with a smaller pot bunker at the par-5 second hole; moved the tee at the par-4 third back 30 yards, to 469 yards; added a fairway bunker at the fifth; and moved the tee at the par-4 sixth to the right, creating more of a dogleg.

On the back, he moved the tee at the par-4 10th back seven yards, and buildt a new tee at the par-4 16th behind the road, boosting its length by 40 yards, to 434. The iconic 18th also had a minor change, moving the tee 20 yards back and left toward Calibogue Sound.