It was the year of South Carolina at the 2017 RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.
We should have known it the minute state Secretary of Agriculture Hugh Weathers sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” a cappella at the opening ceremony.
We knew it for sure when 27-year-old PGA Tour rookie Wesley Bryan — telling CBS Sports anchor Jim Nantz that Easter Sunday should not be about him but about God — became the first native of South Carolina to win the Heritage.
When it all started on Monday, tournament chairman Doug Smith of Spartanburg started mentioning all its connections to his hometown, including the wife of the secretary of agriculture who is from Gramling, and the Rev. John Wall of Hilton Head Island, who delivered the invocation, calling on his education at Wofford College in Spartanburg.
The point was made with bagpipers from The Citadel in Charleston, PGA Tour players cruising in courtesy BMW’s made in Greer, and presenting sponsor Boeing flying a 787 Dreamliner assembled in North Charleston down the 18th fairway at the Harbour Town Golf Links on Saturday afternoon.
And what could be more South Carolina than the tournament attracting people waving Confederate flags at Sea Pines Circle to push their cause?
Or the small plane flying over the 18th fairway, even as a monstrous Boeing 787-9 was due to arrive, pulling a sign saying, “Fix The Damn Roads.”
On Sunday, South Carolina boys Kevin Kisner of Aiken and William McGirt of, yes, Spartanburg, were riding high on the leader board. And former Clemson University golfer Sam Saunders set the fuse for a cannon blast at the opening ceremony to honor his late grandfather, Arnold Palmer, who won the first Heritage and gave it instant cache.
This is not a little old island tournament. That was the message of Doug Smith, former speaker pro tem of the state House of Representatives, as we chatted in the shade Sunday afternoon as the players’ fight for the plaid jacket started to sizzle.
He said perfect weather played a big role in what he thinks will be a year of record ticket sales, especially walk-up sales.
And he said South Carolina is lucky to have the Heritage, as well as the Darlington 500 NASCAR race, and every citizen and business in the state needs to realize that and throw a lot more support their way. At the same time, he said, Hilton Head needs to be more open to others statewide who can help the Heritage.
“This was a year we like to have,” he said, “and we’ve been needing one like this.”
For the home folks, it was a year for little Morgan Mattson, 4, to practice his golf swing with a stick as the last groups came through the 16th hole.
It was a year for Briana Wynn to come home to help her parents, Greg and Terry Wynn, recover from Hurricane Matthew. Thirty-one years ago, Eric Horan took a picture of her as an infant at the Heritage.
It was a year that I could tease Hilton Head native Thomas C. Barnwell Jr. that the marshal on the 15th fairway was the first person to ever get him to be quiet. So he whispered:
“I remember making 50 cents an hour working for (Heritage founder) Charles Fraser, and now I come out and buy a pass and enjoy what people from all over the world came to enjoy.
“But we still have problems. People need housing.”
It was the year that longtime volunteer Norm Reeves, at 100, held up a “Quiet” sign from his seat by the 13th green on Saturday.
It was the year that George Evans retired from the Sea Pines Security, so we didn’t get to see the bearded man in 1,000 pounds of Scottish regalia wave us through. Sue Haupt did a fine job in her tartan outfit that looked a lot more comfortable.
It was the year that the Charter One Realty served more than 3,000 Moon Pie minis to clients dropping by its hospitality villa on the first fairway. And veteran Realtor James Wedgeworth said the Heritage still does what it was created out of whole, almost tartan, cloth to do in 1969. It sells real estate.
It was something that all of South Carolina could proudly hail.