Bob Gillespie



Where can you spot a pro on Hilton Head? Read on

Posted 4/13/2012 10:22:00 AM

Tommy Gainey has heard all about Red Fish, one of the hot restaurants on Hilton Head Island and a place see-and-be-seen during RBC Heritage Week. But the PGA Tour player from Bishopville, popularly known as “Two Gloves” for his habit of wearing golf gloves on both hands, hasn’t eaten at the spot off Palmetto Road – for good reason, he says.

“Hour and a half wait, when I called to make a reservation,” Gainey said as he prepared for Thursday’s start of play in the RBC Heritage, where a year ago he missed a sudden-death playoff (won by Brandt Snedeker over Luke Donald) by a single shot. “I know the food is good, but an hour and a half wait, that’s a lot to wait, especially when you’re calling at 6:30 (p.m.), and then you have to tee off at 7:30 (a.m. Thursday).

“That’s a lot to wait. But their food is good. (The popularity of the restaurant) is what it is.”

Getting into Red Fish might require some planning and patience. But for Heritage fans looking to see their golfing heroes away from Harbour Town Golf Links, the restaurant is THE place to go. In an unscientific survey of PGA Tour players in this week’s tournament field, all but one mentioned dining at Red Fish.

“I go to Red Fish a lot,” said 2009 U.S. Open champion and Greenville native Lucas Glover. “Probably because it’s so close to the gate” – that would be the main traffic-circle gate into Sea Pines Resort. Snedeker, last year’s champion and winner of this year’s Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, recommends Red Fish for sightings, too. “It’s a pretty popular spot with the guys,” he said.

But just as there are restaurants – and other forms of entertainment – for all tastes and budgets inside Sea Pines and on Hilton Head in general, so there are a multitude of places to spot your favorite player(s). You just have to know where to look, and then don’t be overbearing about doing it.

Two-time Heritage champion Stewart Cink says that’s one of the great things about the RBC Heritage. “It’s just a great place to mix in with the crowds, because they’re pretty respectful and they really appreciate what we do. They’re out there to watch us hit some shots they really cannot hit, and they do appreciate it – it’s a lot like the Masters that way, a very respectful crowd.”

So, Stewart, where should fans look for you and your family of four?

“We like to ride bikes around in Sea Pines,” Cink said. “We stay near the clubhouse and ride the bikes down to Salty Dog. We like to ride them to Truffles and Giuseppe’s, two of my favorite places, and to CQ’s.

“Those are real laid-back places, and you can get out and enjoy the spring weather. You see some of the other golfers out there with their little kids – my kids are getting old.”

Snedeker says he’s not a bike person, “but we like to go for walks on the beach, or go down to the lighthouse,” the world-famous landmark in Harbour Town, “and walk around a little.” Besides Red Fish, Snedeker and his family enjoy meals at Santa Fe Cantina.

“We also do a lot of sleeping in, hanging out by the pool. We try not to stand out.” But if you see a 30-something guy with curly blond hair strolling the beach, chances are it’s Snedeker – or another pro. “Exactly,” he said.

Bill Haas stresses that, relaxing or not, “when the bell rings Thursday morning, you tee it up and I don’t care what event it is, you’re out there grinding your butt off” to try and win. Still, even the hard-working son of Jay Haas, who played 22 times at Harbour Town and met his wife (and Bill’s mother) Jan there in 1977, likes to soak up the laid-back atmosphere, too.

“It does have that feel,” he said. “With the harbor right there, you can walk off the 18th green if you want and go straight to a boat, have a cocktail or whatever. It’s great viewing for the fans, and as players I think we just enjoy that atmosphere.”

Lucas Glover admits to being a bit more of a hermit during the tournament. “I’m always good for a Mellow Mushroom pizza, for sure,” he said. Otherwise, though, “I stay pretty close to the house. We rent something in Sea Pines and kind of camp there.”

That is, except on days when he has a morning or afternoon free. Then, you’re likely to find him with a fishing rod in his hands. Years ago, Glover made friends with residents of nearby Long Cove, a private golf course and community, and spent time casting lines in the quiet area.

“Steve (Wilmot, tournament director) set up some fishing for the guys one year,” Glover said. This week, “I’ll just see what comes up. I don’t have any of my gear yet.”

To sum up: When at Hilton Head Island, the PGA Tour’s players like to do … well, what everyone else likes to do. Eat. Drink. Relax. Even, occasionally, wait a while for that coveted dinner reservation.