David Lauderdale

Lauderdale: RBC Heritage mascot shaves the years away

Do they make plaid diapers?

It looks like we’re going to need them soon for Sir Willie Innes.

The official mascot of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing is starkly younger this year.

We should be calling him Wee Willie.

PGA Tour fans who have flocked to Hilton Head Island want to know what happened to the Scottish-clad golfer of yore who has roamed the grounds of Harbour Town for the past six years.

Is this his love child? Has the time machine that invented him in the first place spun out of control?

I asked Sir Willie the Younger himself.

He doesn’t give straight answers.

Well, I take that back.

He asked if I knew why he is now going around advising men to shave with a straight razor.

“It shaves the years right off,” he said.

So there I stood — in line with little girls with plaid bows in pigtails waiting to be photographed with Sir Willie — serving as the straight man for terrible jokes about straight razors.

I asked the marketing director for the Heritage Classic Foundation who this new Wee Willie is, but Angela McSwain was no help. She said, “He is the spirit of the RBC Heritage.”

We all know who he is supposed to be.

Sir William Innes was the captain of the Society of Golfers at Blackheath in England in 1778. Or so declared Charles E. Fraser of Hinesville, Ga., when he produced the first Heritage golf tournament in 1969 to draw attention to the Sea Pines development he created.

Golf historian Charles Price, the excellent golf writer who helped assemble the first field of the Heritage, joined South Carolina historian George C. Rogers Jr. in producing a book for Fraser. It proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the brand new tournament, on a brand new course, with a clubhouse so new the paint was wet, was only a foot wedge away from the beginnings of golf.

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Sir Willie, they say, is the guy depicted in the first-ever print of what a gentleman golfer looked like.

His image has been the symbol of the Heritage from its beginning, even though he formerly wore a solid red jacket instead of today’s plaid.

McSwain says the living mascot has surpassed all expectations for linking the tournament to its fans and community.

Wee Willie rode in the Hilton Head St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He goes to schools. He makes appearances year-round.

But, unlike the Phillie Phanatic or the San Diego Chicken, our mascot is a person. We can see him beneath his costume, and we can tell when years of age fly from his face like a kilt in the wind.

Sir Willie has always been protective of Sir Willie.

Years ago, I walked out of the press tent at the Heritage only to see the former Sir Willie, Sir Willie the Elder, perched behind a tree fiddling with a smartphone. I do not know if it was a tartan smartphone because it disappeared in the half second it took my smartphone to get poised for an unusual picture.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” came the old Scottish proverb from his ancient lips.

A friend told me he ran into Sir Willie the Elder eating in a local restaurant. He was not dressed in his plaid jacket and black hat. He was not holding over his shoulder a royal golf club.

But the moment my friend said hello, Sir Willie lurched backward in time to speak with a brogue, and he defied my friend to report this chance encounter to the world at-large.

So, for fans wondering what happened to Sir Willie, the best answer I can give is that he is actually part of a royal and ancient witness protection program.

And if Sir Willie were to never change, we would eventually have a fossilized person being wheeled around Harbour Town in a specially-equipped golf cart called the Williemobile.

By comparison, plaid diapers are looking more like Charles Fraser’s instant heritage. Don’t ask too many questions. This just might help us all live to see tomorrow.

David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale

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