He Says - She Says: The Verizon Heritage
Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton
April is here, and you know what that means. Sure, there will be the occasional showers that will help May flowers and all that jazz, but I’m talking big time PGA golf. It’s Heritage time and there’s nothing like Hilton Head Island’s most prestigious sporting event. Yes, I’m well aware that there is a group of well-heeled video game aficionados who keep promising to sponsor a weeklong video game tourney on the island, but until they do, The Heritage is still king of the hill. It’s part sporting event with just a pinch of Mardi Gras mixed in. I’m a former security officer at Sea Pines, and this year will be my first Heritage as a spectator. Oh, the stories I could tell, but my agent suggests that I save the really juicy stuff in case I manage to get a book deal with Random House for my memoirs.
What’s that you say? You don’t believe that I can give you a peek behind the curtain, leave out the really good stuff and still write a scintillating column? Well, good reader, prepare to be amazed. I will tell you tales of locals and tourists that involve golf, people with unhealthy attachments to second string cartoon characters and the copious consumption of various flavors of Skittles candy with Hawaiian Punch. Let’s start with the golfers.
Mark Twain once remarked that, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” While I hate to disagree with a quote machine like Mr. Twain, he obviously didn’t attend The Heritage. Why, where else can you see professional golfers up close and personal about to come to blows in a local supermarket? The dust up wasn’t about golf but Cajun seasonings. It seems one well-known PGA pro prefers to use Tony Chachere’s brand of official Creole seasonings, while his fellow golf pro said it was blasphemous to use any pre-packaged mix to make official “nawlins” cuisine. Fascinating stuff since neither of the guys is from New Orleans and neither is noted for being able to boil water let alone manage to replicate Cajun cuisine. See, I told you this stuff would be scintillating.
Wait, are you rolling your eyes at me? Of all the ungrateful… Well, let’s talk about the locals then. During The Heritage the locals go wild, man. When you talk radical transformations on a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde scale, there’s only one time of the year that your mild-mannered neighbor is willing to do things that would make Darth Vader shudder. I was working the Sea Pines Ocean Gate and I saw a well-known “conservative” property owner drive through with several large containers of Hawaiian Punch and four large bags of fun size Skittles.
Being naturally suspicious, and because The Heritage was taking place, I had her pulled over by patrol. After three hours of interrogation and watching Lou Dobbs, she spilled the beans and confessed. Her next door neighbor’s grandson was having a birthday party and she thought it would be a nice gesture to make sure the kids had some candy and punch. Talk about devious. Those kids would’ve been bouncing off the walls for the rest of the night, and the golfer next door wouldn’t have been able to perform to his usual standard.
It seems that the nice neighbor had a sizable wager with some other ladies in her quilting circle, and she was bound and determined not to lose the pool. Hey, are you crossing your arms and give me “the look”?
That gambling ring was broken up thanks to my suspicions, you know. We even got several nice quilts to boot. But I can see that you’re gonna be difficult. You’re the type of person who thinks Springsteen should sweep the stage when he’s done, right? Okay, here’s the tale of the local businessman with the cartoon tattoo.
During The Heritage, there are some parts of Sea Pines Plantation that are road blocked. Large numbers of vendors and contractors have to be re-routed to ensure that the increased traffic flow due to the tournament is as smooth as possible. Some are understanding about the situation; some are very angry about SC Highway patrolmen telling them that they have to use an alternate route. Now, when I see highway patrol and I’m not getting a speeding ticket, I celebrate. But not everyone feels that way.
One particular vendor comes to mind. He wasn’t a happy camper, and he stopped by the gate to let me know just how upset he was. He was a burly fellow and was physically imposing like a fighter from the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), except for the Scrappy Doo tattoo on his right forearm. It was all I could do to maintain my professional demeanor.
For the uniformed, Scrappy Doo is Scooby Doo’s nephew and one of the worst cartoon characters ever in the history of Saturday morning cartoons. Jade Chan from “The Jackie Chan Adventures” is a very close second place runner up. She’d be number one, but the good folks behind Jackie Chan’s cartoon knew when to say when. The same cannot be said for the good folks at Hannah-Barbera. “Puppy power”? Give me a break.
I told the burly vendor that he was welcome to speak to a supervisor but that he might want to get a tattoo of Judy Jetson first. He was highly offended, and he told me that “Scrappy Doo revitalized the Scooby Doo franchise.” Now, that’s just like saying that Yoko Ono revitalized The Beatles. That dude lives on the island; he knows the rules. “You guys know me. Me and the chief play badminton on Thursdays,” he said.
There’s no “me” in tournament. Stop acting like a whiny tourist from Cincinnati.
Just an aside for the good people of Cincinnati. You don’t have to watch the Bengals, you know. The Steeler nation welcomes you with open arms. Six Super Bowls and counting, baby!!
Oh, so you’re leaving? Well, see you later, pal. I could tell you just wanted some salacious tabloid Jerry Springer shenanigans. Did they happen during the tourneys I worked? Of course they did. Did I witness any? Too many to count. Did I hold a guy so Greg Norman could punch his lights out? Sure, I did and Mr. Norman also was kind enough to help me learn how to properly throw a boomerang. He’s from Canada, you know. They throw loads of boomerangs there.
You’ll just have to wait until I find a publisher for my memoirs for the good stuff. But you won’t get an autographed copy.
Once upon a time, a girl moved to a Lowcountry island to live for a summer. She swam and sunbathed. Suddenly, one summer turned in to five summers, and in the time it has taken me to become a pseudo-local, I’ve learned a lot about our cozy community. I’ve learned that it gets smaller and smaller with each handshake and introduction (far less than six degrees of separation). I have figured out which lane is the fastest through the Cross Island Expressway, when to ditch the Sea Pines Traffic Circle and how to avoid the lady who talks about her dogs while checking me out at Publix. I know that the beach lifestyle that attracts so many Buckeye’s here in the summer also has an off season. And I fully understand that the quiet off-season has an official end, HERITAGE!
To read the word “Heritage” does not do it justice. You have to hear the word Heritage yelled and yelped out by a group of local single girls. The decibel and pitch rivals that of a pack of hyenas. That is not to say that the ladies who love Heritage are like wild dogs, but their feverish excitement over the prospect of Hilton Head Island being flooded with polo-wearing, golf bag-toting, fellow fans of the PGA isn’t far off from a pack giddy over a fresh kill.
I like golf. I like putting effort forth in my attire in order to play a sport. Half the reason I played field hockey in high school was for the cute plaid skirt that kicked up when I ran. I like any and all sports that allow, and in some cases encourage, the consumption a cocktail or two while playing. I like how seriously, even the most novice amateur player takes the game. I like hitting the ball off the tee and driving the golf cart.
That being said, why I like to play golf has little or no correlation with Heritage. Upon my first Heritage experience, a new friend told me that I simply had to get a big straw hat and sundress to wear for the day’s events. I was confused. It was my first time at a golf tournament, in fact of all the times I had “watched golf” at home with my father, I was awake for about 30 minutes (two words: golf-nap).Why would I need a straw hat and sundress? Clearly I had no idea what was expected of ladies at a PGA event.
For the most part, the Heritage isn’t really a golf event. The professional golfers are often overshadowed, by corporate sponsored VIP boxes, “fans” prancing around the course in five-inch heels and after parties at the Quarterdeck, where last year I witnessed two fellas swim across Harbor Town Yacht basin to get to the QD. Many spectators don’t do any actually spectating.
Of course, I know these things because I’ve been there too—as a spectator, high-heel walker and volunteer. The Heritage does have a softer side. Since 1987 the Heritage Classic Foundation has distributed $18.5 revenue produced by the event to a wide variety of local and area charitable organizations, universities and medical institutions.
I don’t follow the PGA, so unless a tall, handsome African American man wearing Nike apparel walked by me carrying a 9 iron, I wouldn’t recognize a professional golfer. But everyone is a golf fan during Heritage. It gives me much the same feeling as watching March Madness, rooting for the underdog from some long shot school in Iowa. For the week of Heritage, everyone knows and loves Boo, DL3 and Trahan.
The past two years, my Heritage experience has been from inside the Sea Pines Montessori Academy concession booth at the turn of the ninth hole. It’s great fun to volunteer some of my time to raise money for our school, especially since I enjoy the perk of having the week off. We hope for beautiful weather and huge crowds with deep pockets; all islanders do, since this is our week to shine. Heritage brings us out of our off-season coma, gets us ready for spring and summer, oh yeah, and some golf happens too.