RBC Heritage

PGA Wives hit Harbour Town with pro hubbies as caddies to raise money for charities

Kim Gay gets some help from husband and 2009 Heritage champion Brian Gay on Tuesday on the 18th hole of the Sea Pines Ocean Course during the PGA Tour Wives Golf Classic. "I need all the help I can get," she said.
Kim Gay gets some help from husband and 2009 Heritage champion Brian Gay on Tuesday on the 18th hole of the Sea Pines Ocean Course during the PGA Tour Wives Golf Classic. "I need all the help I can get," she said. Sarah Welliver, The Island Packet

Matt Bettencourt had some simple advice for his wife, Kelly, at the start of Tuesday's PGA Tour Wives Golf Classic.

"It's 400 yards," the PGA Tour player teased as his wife prepared to tee off on the 10th hole of Sea Pines' Ocean Course on Hilton Head Island. "Hit it straight."

A few seconds later, Kelly sent her ball bounding into a nearby pond.

So began the PGA Tour Wives Association's first tournament on Hilton Head.

The association, which holds the charitable tournament at different locations every other year, brought it to Hilton Head this year at the request of Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot.

Tuesday's low-key, nine-hole scramble featured tour pros serving as caddies for their significant others, wearing bibs, raking bunkers, tending flags and hitting the occasional do-over -- a "mulligan," in golf-speak.

Bettencourt's foursome competed in matching plaid shorts and knee-high, argyle socks. Bettencourt, the association's vice president of fundraising, was joined by Audrey Leishman, wife of Marc; Sarah McGirt, wife of William; and Erin Gainey, wife of Tommy.

Some of the association's members are former pros, but all members of Bettencourt's group are amateurs who were generally pleased to make contact with the ball.

The foursome, which needed a mulligan from Marc Leishman to make the fairway on its opening hole, improved considerably as the afternoon progressed and finished 5 under par.

But the score wasn't the focus. The association planned to raise more than $100,000 during the event.

Half will go to Hilton Head Heroes, which brings families with children between the ages of 4 and 18 suffering from life-threatening illnesses to Sea Pines for a resort vacation.

The other half will be distributed by the association, which conducts service projects and other fundraisers around the country.

The tournament also featured a healthy dose of antics.

Bettencourt's group, for example, exchanged high-fives, posed for pictures and tossed balls and hats to spectators scattered along the course.

On one hole, the women pretended to ride an inflatable gator perched next to a set of beach chairs in a sand bunker. A hole later, they would gawk at the real thing lurking in a lagoon.

As the women took snapshots atop the inflatable reptile, Matt Bettencourt lay sprawled across the bunker, basking in the afternoon sun on a lounge pad.

"This is perfect," said the Alameda, Calif., native. "Do we really have to leave?"

BALLOON CHAMPION TO ARRIVE

Two-time world champion balloonist John Petrehn is coming to the Heritage golf tournament.

Weather permitting, he will launch the Touchstone Energy hot air balloon at sunrise and sunset Friday and Saturday from an area in front of the Goodwill store on U.S. 278 in Bluffton.

He also will appear from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday and noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Palmetto Electric Cooperative's GreenPower booth at the golf tournament's Expo Village. He will meet and greet golf fans, answer questions about the balloon and bring its basket for photo opportunities.

'BIRDIES FOR THE BRAVE'

Three of the Lowcountry's favorite things -- golf, tourism and the military -- are coming together for a charity campaign.

Beginning with the Crowne Plaza Invitational on May 19 through the AT&T National ending July 3, InterContinental Hotels Group's Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts will donate rooms to the "Birdies for the Brave" campaign, a PGA Tour-supported program to help U.S. armed forces personnel and their families.

The donated rooms will be used to support injured veterans and military personnel participating in Birdies for the Brave activities, according to an IHG news release.

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