Bob Gillespie



Sights and sounds from the Heritage

Posted 4/15/2012 6:57:00 PM

Pretty in plaid

It was hard to miss the dozen visitors from Cheltenham, England, at this weekend’s RBC Heritage. Sunday, they wore plaid hats (not caps) as they followed tournament leaders Carl Petterson and Colt Knost during final-round play.

It was even harder to miss them, though, on Saturday. CBS cameras, in fact, picked up the golf buddies from Lilley Brooke Golf Club in Cheltenham, all of them adorned in pink Hawaiian shirts.

“We’ve been coming for the Heritage for 11 years,” said Nigel Chandler, 50, a carpenter and bathroom installer, who led his younger compatriots around Harbour Town Golf Links. “We’ve been here for 11 days – going home on Wednesday – and we love the people, the competition … and the weather.”

The group began visiting Hilton Head Island when a transplanted Briton, Barry Priest, began inviting them to visit him in his Hilton Head home. It was Priest who found the Tartan plaid headgear, an item a sales assistant at the RBC Heritage merchandise tent said “we’ve got to have some.”

The crew attended the tournament on the weekend only, playing golf at nearby Crescent Pointe Golf Club in Bluffton the rest of the time. “The other years, we’ve played Belfair, Berkeley Hall and Palmetto Dunes,” said Chandler, who said the group planned to play Palmetto Dunes’ Robert Trent Jones course on Monday.

Chandler also has a personal reason to keep returning to Hilton Head: his wife. “I met my Mrs. (the former Kim Shaw) here,” he said, laughing. “Her father is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marines, and her brother, Scott, was a pilot for (former President) Clinton.”

They’ll fly home this week with plenty of memories – and plans for 2013. Their reaction to the first year with RBC and Boeing as sponsors?

“Fantastic!” Chandler said.

Big sellers: Planes, logs and plaid

An elderly woman stood at a cash register in the RBC Heritage Merchandise Tent, located near the Harbour Town clubhouse, and chatted with a sales clerk. “My granddaughter will love that,” she said of a size-small golf shirt. “This is our ninth year, and it’s always great fun.”

It’s also big business for Harbour Town, which sold “hundreds” of golf shirts bearing the logo of new “RBC Heritage” logo. Also high on the list of popular items were anything bearing the logo of presenter Boeing – and “anything in Tartan plaid,” said Caroline Basarab Dennison, the resort’s manager of retail and a 14-year Harbour Town veteran.

“Our sales have been good, and a lot of that is the community being supportive by buying shirts and other things as collector’s items,” Dennison said.

If you wanted it, chances are the merchandise tent had it for sale. “We’ve had a great week, a lot of people out here every day, and we’ve been blessed with great weather,” said first assistant Ben Smith, Harbour Town’s first assistant professional, who was drafted for tent duty.

Among the more unusual items for sale were leather bomber jackets with Boeing’s logo on the chest, scale models of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner ($12) and Dreamliner stuffed toys ($9). Smith’s favorite items – and, judging by the fact they were sold out by Sunday – were the solid-plaid golf balls bearing a Harbour Town logo and a depiction of the 18th green, and sunglasses with plaid frames.

“We started the plaid promo, and it took off,” he said.

Smile for the camera

Most visitors to the RBC Heritage will never get to play in the tournament. But if they stopped by the Heritage Expo Village, located next to the ninth fairway, they could step inside the 10 foot-by-20 foot “RBC Fan Experience” tent and take home a souvenir that made it appear they had played.

Fans could stand in front of a green screen, hold a golf club, and Tim Greiner or one of his staff would take a picture that, when reproduced, showed them standing on the 18th tee. Visitors then were given a badge with the address and a six-digit code, which lets them go to the website and download their photo – to post on Facebook, for instance.

“We had about 550 people go through (Sunday), about 2,200 for the four days of the tournament,” said Greiner, who has previously run similar operations at the RBC Canadian Open and last year’s PGA Championship in Atlanta.

Another exhibit allowed visitors to design the color scheme for RBC-sponsored player Matt Kuchar’s golf bag, choosing fabrics and colors to construct the bag on a computer screen. This past week, Kuchar’s caddie carried a bag designed by a fan at the PGA.

“The winning designer gets the bag,” worth about $500, “which Matt signs, and he’ll carry it at next year’s Heritage,” Greiner said. Kuchar is one of eight golfers affiliated with RBC who played in this week’s tournament.