When you manage (own) a "safe house," you might develop a ... friendlier ... relationship with the pros.
Just ask Gail Dowling, whose home sits off the No. 5 tee at Harbour Town Golf Links and who, during Friday's action at the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing, received a kiss on the cheek from PGA Tour pro Rory Sabbatini.
This after, according to Dowling, she made a mimosa for Sabbatini's wife, who was following the South African golfer during the second round of action.
"A to-go 'mosa," Dowling's husband, Gary, said Saturday afternoon.
He, too, witnessed the show of affection, one that came after Sabbatini called up to the porch of what the Dowlings like to think is Sabbatini's favorite safe house, one of 13 on the Sea Pines course marked by orange flags in their yards.
Tournament volunteer Phil Hartman leads the Safe Haven Committee that coordinates the houses, where players, their caddies and families and tournament volunteers seek shelter in the event of severe weather that halts play. The forecast for Sunday's final round might mean they stay busy. Still, the pros sometimes stop by when the sun's out.
Or in the middle of competitive rounds.
Sabbatini's drink request was not the norm during tournament play, the Dowlings said. But, during a practice round or a pre-tournament pro-am, the pros might stop by to use the bathroom or chat.
The Dowlings have posed for pictures in their front yard with Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson, the latter of whom talked fatherhood with the Dowlings' son and new dad, Ryan. They've shared coffee and blueberry muffins with Sabbatini and others. And, most important, they offer up their house to the army of course volunteers needed to regulate play and movement on the links.
"These nice people do so much for us, and we really appreciate it," said a tournament volunteer who had just taken up his post near the No. 5 tee. Moments later, Sabbatini's group came by, and the pro gave the Dowlings a wave and a thumbs up.
Marnie Freeman, whose safe house sits near the No. 6 tee box, said she's carrying on a tradition her late parents kept up for years.
"The safe havens don't turn over a lot," Hartman said, explaining the Freemans had offered up their home for decades.
Freeman recalls a time a few years ago when some of the players sought refuge in her home during a short weather delay.
"They all had their cleats on," Freeman said Saturday. "And I'm thinking, 'My mother would die.'"
Her mother, Martha, was a Heritage marshal for years, and her father, Paul, used to direct the volunteer efforts. Paul Freeman used to tell a story — "with a glint in his eye," according to his daughter — about Julius Boros slipping into their safe house during a rain delay. The old pro, a two-time U.S. Open winner known for his easygoing swing, slipped into the Freeman residence and had a seat in Paul Freeman's gold velour club chair.
"My dad was very proud that Julius Boros sat in his chair," Marnie Freeman said.
Typically, unless it's a very short weather delay, the pros are whisked away to nearby vans and taken to the clubhouse. But if it's just a short storm, they might hang out in the house.
"In the 1970s, players might have spent more time in the safe-haven homes," Hartman said.
Back then, and still today, a rain delay is one of those moments where the pros rely on us Janes and Joes.
Because nobody likes to get soaked.
And most folks like muffins and coffee.