Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Notes from the Heritage: Jim Furyk, Clemson and more

Posted 4/13/2012 9:41:00 AM

Jim Furyk is a fan of the RBC Heritage and Harbour Town Golf Links – no surprise there, since the PGA Tour veteran won the 2010 title, finished second twice (2005, 2006) and fourth once (2008) in 13 previous appearances. But until recent years, he says, it wasn’t always an easy transition from the previous week at Augusta National.

“Ten years ago, it was almost impossible for me to come from the Masters and play this golf tournament,” Furyk said Thursday after a round of 3-under-par 68, which left him atop the first-round standings. “Augusta was wide open before the changes there, and (had) huge greens (that) were as fast as we played – overly fast.”

Meanwhile, Harbour Town then was “as tight as can be, with tiny greens (that) used to be some of the slowest that we putted on Tour. And so the difference from one to the other was so drastic, I really had a hard time just getting ready and making that change.”

Since, Augusta National has narrowed its fairways, grown rough and “tamed their green speeds quite a bit,” Furyk said. “I’m working on hitting the ball straight (at Augusta) as well.” Harbour Town, “when they redid their greens, they got much firmer, much faster, and the change in putting wasn’t that big a deal to me,” he said.

As for Furyk’s fondness for the tournament, his reasoning goes like this:

“Until this year, it’s a golf course probably has gone pretty much unchanged for 40 years since it’s been designed,” he said. “I can’t imagine any golf that we’ve played, since I joined the PGA Tour 19 years ago, that hasn’t changed.

“This one has definitely withstood the test of time. It didn’t need to change … It’s a tough place to play.”

But a great place to stay, he said – for him and his family.

“You’ve got Hilton Head, it’s very family oriented, and I think a fun place,” Furyk said. “I enjoy it here. I like the grounds and the people here; it’s a small footprint for the golf course (and) it feels a little more quaint and a little more like a little party, rather than a huge bash, if that makes sense.”

Tiger pride

Flying over hospitality tents alongside Harbour Town’s 18th tee are flags representing the Heritage, sponsor RBC – and one orange banner that stands out.

The Tiger paw-adorned tent houses the Clemson Alumni Association, where long-time Clemson administrator Joe White oversees the snacks and hospitality to promote “Clemson Golf Paws,” a fundraising effort to help pay for the Larry B. Penley Golf Facility, home to the Tigers’ men’s golf team and, soon, the women’s team.

“It’s our introductory weekend,” said White, who serves as chairman for the fund-raising drive. Wednesday night, more than 100 fans crowded the tent to listen to Clemson assistant men’s coach Jordan Byrd, women’s coach-in-waiting J.T. Horton and PGA Tour players D.J. Trahan, Kyle Stanley and Tommy Biershenk, plus current Tigers junior Corbin Mills.

Ernie coming back?

Ernie Els shot a first-round 72, 1-over par, on Thursday. Afterward, though, he was more interested in talking about his four-year-old Els For Autism Foundation, which will hold a fund-raising golf tournament at Harbour Town on Sept. 10.

Els and wife Liezl posed with tournament co-chairs Rick and Kay Reichel, as well as Sea Pines Resort director of sport Cary Corbitt, for a photo shoot to promote the tournament. Els said he hopes to attend the event, the winner of which will earn a spot in a national tournament Oct. 21-22 in Las Vegas.

“This will be our first time in South Carolina, and it’s going to be great,” said Els, whose son Ben suffers from autism, which inspired the South African star to head up a drive to cure the condition. The tournament program, in its second year, has raised $1.8 million, he said.

“I didn’t get to too many (of the 30 tournaments held across the country) last year, but I’d like to get here,” Els said. “This is a good place to come.” The Els family enjoys visiting Hilton Head each year, and Els has come close several times to winning the RBC Heritage.

Besides the winning team, any foursome that raises $10,000 or more for Els’ foundation can earn a spot in Las Vegas. For information on the foundation and the Harbour Town tournament, go to E4Agolf.com.

Bo knows kids

Bo Van Pelt, who is wearing the Heritage Classic Foundation logo on his cap this week as a “thank you” to new sponsor RBC, will visit the Boys and Girls Club on Hilton Head Island, one of the organizations supported by the Foundation, Friday at 2:30 p.m.

The visit will be at the Boys and Girls Club, 151 Gumtree Road on Hilton Head.