Apr 16

The Heritage Heats Up

Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC  Tags:

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Photo: The Top Fan

The Verizon Heritage Classic is underway in round two today after some very low scoring took place yesterday in round one. Jim Furyk and Mike Weir have taken the lead temporarily at seven under. I was fortunate to be able to take in the happenings of the opening round of play from Hilton Head Island's Harbour Town Links. Here is my experience at Sea Pines over the last couple of days.

First off, Sea Pines is a place that is hard to describe. It is a development that takes up the southern end of the island, and is home to some of the nicer homes in the world. Arthur Blank - the CEO of Home Depot - has an ocean-front home here, as do many other big-wigs that you will never see, meet, or put a name with a face. It is always fun to drive around and look at nice homes, but they aren't all big mansions. Though some homes are large in size, most are reasonably sized, with a faded tan color that blends them into the surrounding landscape. Large live oaks put a canopy over nearly every square inch that isn't a fairway or lagoon, and the ocean breezes are constant. It is ideal, to put it sarcastically light.

So after doing a couple of days of work for my uncle, who has a nice place within walking distance of the course, my brother and I took in the first day of play at the Heritage. It was the first time I had watched pro golf live in person since the 2001 Masters, and it was very impressive.

As we walked through Harbour Town and approached the entrance to Harbour Town Links, it was very clear that for the time we were there, we would be in some sort of fantasy world. The landscaping was flawless to the point of absurdity, and everyone was dressed in laid-back, but very stylish clothing. There was just a general buzz in the air that comes with many major sporting events right as they are getting cranked up.

The first thing you see as you walk through the gate is the practice green. Just as expected, it was purely flawless, and is surrounded by flowers with a patio over looking it (A patio where a high-dollar cocktail was calling my name). The place was one of those where you really have to just kind of stand there and take it all in for a few minutes. It was overwhelming with pro golfers walking around, golf-channel camera guys, slick-dressed folks, and some of the most beautiful grounds I have ever walked on. It was a lot at once.

So we watched a few guys putt for a while. Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk were out practicing, as were several guys we couldn't name. Fans stand around the fence and watch the players as if they are horses in the paddock at a major horse race. Up close, you can hear them talking to their caddies or coaches. It's very cool.

But enough for the practice green, it was time to get on to the real thing. We started off by walking backwards from the clubhouse down number nine. On the walk, we were able to see Lucas Glover, Chad Campbell and KJ Choi. I was standing about four feet from KJ Choi for several minutes while the other two in the threesome hit their shots. Sweet.

Lucas and KJ were both 100 percent all-business. Some players are kinda light, and some are sort of down the middle in demeanour. But with KJ and Lucas, it was all business, no doubt. Rory Sabatini gets the butt-face award. After a short miss on the eighth green, he slung the ball into the woods (actually somebody's backyard) before stomping off the green. He carried on at the next tee box as he was huffing and puffing around, holding up Glover and Scott Verplank. Those two stood together, and I believe at one point were joking about what an ass Sabbatini must be. Just my guess.

After watching Glover play a few shots, we joined up with the herd following the threesome of Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia and Camilo Villegas. With Sergio and Camilo, it was like Hollywood on a golf course. The two were completely decked out in golf fashion. Sergio's shoes had his initials on them, while Villegas was doing everything in his power to show off his biceps. I think he would play with his shirt off if they would let him. And - yes - we saw him do "the Spiderman." Dork.

Cink was the coolest of the three in my opinion. He calmly strolled around, taking things in stride. He was decked out head to toe by Nike, in that slick new material that I cannot even name. It is like an athletic type material as opposed to traditional golf wear of slacks. They look like dress slacks (sort of), but are almost reaching a jogging pant type look. I actually really like it to be honest. And man, in real life you can see just how hard they can pound the golf ball.

We followed this threesome for holes three through nine, and then it was time for lunch. While sitting at a set of tables just off of the tenth fairway, and a slight breeze blowing in the full sunshine, some of the best bar-b-que sandwiches I have had in a while were consumed. Throw in an ice cold coke, and life for a few minutes there was hard to beat.

After a good hour or so of food and letting our legs rest from all of the walking, we noticed that the masses were starting to gather at the tenth tee box. The reason for this was that John Daly - the living legend - was about to start his back nine. Despite your opinion of this man, and despite his shortcomings that are self-inflicted, Daly is perhaps the most likable player on Tour. On this day, he took on three guys and he won. That's right, his galleries (as the only big name in the group) were bigger than those of Garcia, Villegas and Cink's (playing together).

So we decided to join up with this herd of folks and follow Daly for a few holes. He can rip it, that is not a question. And yes, he still smokes cigarettes. I think he had one per hole while we followed him. He wore purple paisley pants with a bright yellow shirt, and I think it is clear he likes the attention. He did not joke around at all, or anything like that, but he stood out in his group with his attire.

We walked ahead of Daly's group to fifteen, and after a long stop in the grandstands to watch Daly and several other groups roll through, we moved to the signature eighteenth hole.

Remember that fantasy world thing I mentioned above? Well, back to that. Looking out over the ocean, it was beauty beyond words. I was very glad I left my camera in the room at lunch as I would have certainly been unable to resist the temptation of trying to take a photo (cameras are not allowed, though many people had them, and I grabbed a picture or two on the front when it was safe to do so). We sat at this hole for the final hour and a half or so of the day, and I will not forget anytime soon how enjoyable it was. The real estate along the eighteenth hole is some of the most prestigous you will ever come across, and yet, somehow, has this discretion as though it has been there as long as the ocean has.

Exhausted, we headed back to Harbour Town for dinner and beverages. The walk from the eighteenth green over to Harbour Town is only a few hundred yards, and views of yachts, the ocean, and hundred-year old oak trees is ever-changing...What a place!

So now we will sit back and see who can win this thing. KJ Choi is struggling after a good opening round, and sits at four under. Jim Furyk and Mike Weir are tied for the lead at seven under. Stay tuned...

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