David Lauderdale

Ohio State always plays at home on Hilton Head

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Everything's coming up buckeyes here on Hilton Ohio Island.

THE Ohio State University beat Alabama on New Year's Day to play the Oregon Ducks next week for the college football national championship.

On Hilton Head, people rejoiced like the day Skyline Chili opened a store here.

I don't want to imply that Hilton Head is overrun with Ohioans, but half our population calls Sea Pines Circle a horseshoe.

Hilton Head will officially become the southern-most point in Ohio as soon as Gregg Russell, the Harbour Town troubadour, becomes governor of Ohio. If Ohio had a Mount Rushmore, Gregg Russell would be on it. All the other characters would be wearing Salty Dog T-shirts. By now, most people in Ohio think they were raised on Gregg Russell's knee.

We even grow buckeyes here. Our gardening columnist, Betsy Jukofsky, gave me a buckeye plant from her yard. I don't know why, unless she's a Michigan fan, because plants come to my yard to die. That's all they do. They never bloom, and they certainly don't produce buckeyes.

But Hilton Head has bloomed in no small part thanks to Ohio.

We don't know exactly why they started coming, but they did.

Some of our developments used to advertise in The Plain Dealer in Cleveland on the coldest Sundays of the year. We showed them pictures of happy families playing tennis.

Brian Bambeck owns the popular Buckeye game-watching venue of Mangiamo's Hilton Head Pizza Co. on Main Street. His first visit to the island was as a kid on family vacation. He's always heard Ohio latched onto Hilton Head because it's a one-day drive straight down the chute.

But I think it was mostly word of mouth and friends visiting friends that prompted future U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the state to buy into Hilton Head.

Sometimes whole cities come. I've met people from Lancaster, Ohio, who know more about Hilton Head than I do.

So by now we're used to pulling for Buckeyes, or at least pulling for their wallets. Except, of course, when they're getting whipped by the Clemson Tigers or the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. THE Ohio State University is 0-for-South Carolina in football.

Surely, we couldn't pull for the Oregon Ducks.

In the Lowcountry, the only thing we know to do with ducks is shoot them.

And even if we don't sit in duck blinds before dawn, armed to our chattering teeth, we tend to have duck dogs. Or duck dog wannabes. Most of our Labradors are sentenced to a lifetime of retrieving tennis balls.

Our duck prowess showed up in the newspaper many years ago in a column by Corinne VanLandingham. She was writing about the Audubon's Christmas Bird Count and how everyone loved to get involved.

A couple of the bird counters were giddy with excitement when they came upon the rarest and most beautiful ducks in a Hilton Head lagoon. They rushed to the door of the nearest house and asked the gentleman why he was sitting there watching football when he could be enjoying the rare ducks.

And he said: "Thank you for noticing. I just bought those decoys last week."

But Hilton Head is no decoy. It truly does dot the "i" in Ohio.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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