Hidden under trees along the fourth fairway at the Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course, a small crowd gathered to watch some pretty bad golf Friday.
Donna Jones, Kathy Zielinski and Stephanie Tobin sat in lawn chairs among friends and laughed or cheered for the shots they could see from their pseudo-grandstand behind Tobin's home in Palmetto Dunes.
There was mostly laughing as celebrities and amateurs worked their way around the course during the first round of this year's Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament.
The annual event hosts celebrities and amateur golfers for three days at courses around Hilton Head to support children's charities in the Lowcountry. Admission is free and open to the public. The tournament gives people a chance to meet actors, musicians and former professional athletes.
For Tobin and her friends, the tournament is as much about being with friends as it is meeting the passing celebrities and laughing about their golf skills.
That's because getting autographs and pictures isn't really what it's about, Kris Meglio said. Perched next to the tee on the second hole, Meglio and her brother, Vic, would rather chat with celebrities than chase down autographs.
"You don't want to hound them; they get enough of that from other people all the time," Kris Meglio said. "The friendship means more."
And the Meglios have made some famous friends. They come to the tournament every year -- Kris Meglio now lives next to the second hole -- and have collected a volume of stories about celebrity shenanigans and foibles, like the time Food Network Chef Beau MacMillan forgot to bring golf clubs.
In 2002, the Meglios also hung out with a half-dozen New York firefighters who had responded during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "The most humble, laid-back heroes," Vic Meglio said.
He and his sister have dined with former college basketball coach Bobby Cremins, who lived on Hilton Head Island between coaching stints at Georgia Tech and the College of Charleston.
But Vic Meglio's favorite story is the tale of meeting Chris Farley -- whose younger brother Kevin, an actor and director, is playing in this year's tournament. Before the 1995 tournament, Meglio bumped into Chris Farley at Java Joe's in Coligny Plaza and tried to introduce the "Saturday Night Live" star to his father, who didn't recognize him.
"Do you know my son from college?" Meglio's dad asked.
"I have to tell him, 'No, it's Chris Farley, from Saturday Night Live,'" Meglio explained.
"My dad says to him, 'Ah, I don't stay up that late.'"
"And Chris thought that was just the funniest line," Meglio added with a laugh.
As it does for Tobin, Jones and Zielinski, the tournament brings the Meglios together for good times and better stories.
"We may not be able to see each other all year, but we know we'll be together for this weekend," Kris Meglio said.
The tournament continues with rounds Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, golfers will hit the Arnold Palmer Signature Course at Wexford Plantation, and on Sunday, they'll play Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort.
The rounds begin with 9 a.m. shotgun starts.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.
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