Spectator film of Hilton Head’s first Heritage shows the greats
Wearing shorts and drenched in sunshine at Harbour Town Golf Links on Tuesday, Corey Conners stopped rolling putts on the practice green to acknowledge another welcome interruption.
A fellow competitor stopped Conners to shake his hand and offer congratulations on his first PGA Tour victory earlier this month at the Valero Texas Open. He noted Conners’ steady play down the stretch — he made birdie on six off his final nine holes to win by two.
Conners had to survive a chaotic Monday qualifier just to get in the tournament. In addition to the large winner’s check, the win had the practical effect of earning Conners a last-minute spot into his Masters as a professional.
For first-time winners on the PGA Tour, victory can be transformative.
Hilton Head has been the setting for numerous first PGA Tour victories. Twelve players have claimed the Heritage as their first tour title, including Nick Faldo and five-time Heritage champion Davis Love III.
The past two champions — South Carolina native Wesley Bryan in 2017 and defending champion Satoshi Kodaira — mark the Heritage as their first breakthrough on tour.
“I didn’t come in with any expectations,” Kodaira said. “But I ended up winning, and it changed my life.”
Kodaira had won seven times on the Japan Tour and made cuts in two majors, but he admitted Tuesday that many of his fellow players don’t know him before his breakthrough last year. He said he felt a thrill during his next start when so many players stopped to offer congratulations.
He banked $1.2 million with the victory and secured PGA Tour membership for the first time.
For Bryan, winning the Heritage meant earning the highest civilian honor in his home state, the Order of the Palmetto. He also grabbed a spot in the Masters and a deal with Taco Bell after his late-night, post-victory snack on the way home from Hilton Head went viral.
Conners had been playing on conditional status before his victory in San Antonio locked in some job security and a spot in this week’s RBC Heritage. He made his professional debut here in 2015 and last year played Harbour Town on a sponsor’s exemption, missing the cut both times.
In Augusta last week, Conners said people stopped by his table to say congratulations while he was out with his wife at dinner. Masters fans cheered him by name during a practice round.
“Something I haven’t really experienced in the past, but felt pretty awesome,” Conners told reporters last week. “Sort of sinking in, what a big deal winning a PGA TOUR event is.”