PGA Tour blows through town, once again delivering the goods

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comApril 22, 2013 

Stiff winds, soaking rains and hurting hearts could not keep the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing from delivering the goods on Hilton Head Island this weekend.

The 45th edition of the PGA Tour event delivered good golf, good crowds and plenty of good times around the Harbour Town Golf Links.

It delivered a $1,044,000 check to winner Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who edged U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson in a playoff hole along the frothy Calibogue Sound as a chilly, overcast afternoon turned cold.

And the tournament presumably juiced the local economy to the tune of about $80 million.

McDowell's plaid champion's jacket was a wee bit large, but he's a fitting champion. In January, the 2010 U.S. Open champion became an RBC "golf ambassador" to represent the Heritage's title sponsor worldwide.

Gord Nixon, RBC's chief executive, said, "We had everything this week. We had hot weather. We had wind. We had cold weather. But it was a great tournament. The players absolutely loved it. The community does a wonderful job."

It all began quietly a week ago today when people began gathering in Harbour Town for the opening parade. They took snapshots near the Liberty Oak, where Charles E. Fraser, who dared to dream such a thing could happen in a small community, is buried beneath a plaque that reads: "To see his true memorial, look around you."

Defending champion Carl Pettersson's little girl, Carlie, brought her doll because "Kit" had never seen a parade. Carlie and Kit marched around the Harbour Town Yacht Basin along with volunteers in red and plaid jackets, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in a plaid tie and the screeching Citadel bagpipe band.

On the 18th green, the Rev. Greg Kronz said prayer and golf are two of his favorite things before giving the invocation. Jack Jones, who heads Boeing's growing presence in South Carolina, joked that they're also two of his favorite things, but not necessarily in that order. He usually prays after he swings the golf club.

But not long after Carlie's daddy knocked a ceremonial golf ball into Calibogue Sound to a smoky canon roar, another blast blew cruel reality into a setting where a sand trap had been considered a hazard. It was the bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line.

Tour golfer James Driscoll, who lives two blocks from the bombing site, announced he would donate $1,000 for each birdie he could coax from the tight golf course. He didn't make it into the final round, but he made $9,000 for victims back home.

On Tuesday evening, hearts were broken again in the CBS Sports compound on hearing about the death of their retired colleague, Pat Summerall. To them, the legendary anchor who worked the Heritage for more than a decade was a friend. To others, he was a man who kicked alcohol, found spiritual salvation and spent the past 21 years of his life trying to spare others. For this community, he gave resonating credibility to a tournament that splashes pictures suitable for framing to hundreds of millions worldwide.

But the show must go on.

For fans, a large party area called the Heritage Lawn was added this year near the 18th tee.

An inch and a half of rain overnight on Friday left it soggy, but a concert by The Headliners after play on Saturday drew an enthusiastic crowd.

The Heritage was once again a parade of people wanting to see and be seen, a sunset over Daufuskie Island, a snapshot of the Harbour Town Lighthouse, an invitation to drop by, a long walk in the woods, a glimpse into a different world.

And even as the new champion stood at water's edge and kissed the winner's trophy for a sea of photographers, trucks were being loaded. And like Barnum & Bailey, the PGA Tour was headed for New Orleans.

It had delivered for Hilton Head once again.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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