PGA Tour Goes to Hilton Head and a Clemson Tailgate Party Broke Out

Fans at Harbour Town Golf Links wanted Dustin Johnson to win the RBC Heritage today. DJ’s a South Carolinian and most attendees couldn’t pick C.T. Ham from a two-man lineup. But Johnson isn’t the most popular “S.C. thing” in Hilton Head. It’s the Clemson Tigers, and the galleries would’ve preferred a kickoff to golf. Masses of Tiger fanatics roamed in head-to-toe in orange. One guy even had Clemson sneakers. Didn’t see orange face paint but it’s a possibility.

Clemson fans and flags everywhere at the RBC Heritage

Tiger paw flags flew all over the golf course and the Clemson booster’s hospitality suite on the eighteenth tee was a tailgate party dress rehearsal. A Dustin Johnson victory speech would have thrilled the crowd, but a few words from Clemson Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney would’ve induced chaos. An appearance from Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence would’ve had people climbing the lighthouse. Boat captains would’ve leaned on their horns and shot orange flairs high in the Carolina sky.

Clemson fans were out and proud this weekend in Hilton Head

None of that happened and Johnson shot 77 to finish T28. On one of the most difficult golf courses on the PGA Tour, perhaps his 77 makes more sense than previous rounds of 68, 67 and 68. Short hitters typically win the Heritage and a win from Johnson would be a crowning achievement in his career. On top of a tight, testy layout–the wind blew and it was chilly.

It’s a perfect golf course for a patient, chess player golfer. It sets up brilliantly for a player like Francesco Molinari, but losing a two-shot lead at Augusta is exhausting. He missed the cut.

Shane Lowry, a good Irish lad knows tough conditions and said this on Saturday, “Patience. It’s going to be quite windy. Not as windy as yesterday. But it’s a cold wind today. It’s a little bit chillier. Just go out there and try to hit the first fairway and take it from there and just hit one shot at a time.”

The 2014 RBC Heritage Champion Matt Kuchar would’ve pleased the gallery too. There were “Koooooch” cheers all weekend. He needed a 66, but shot 67 to finish one back of Pan, who also shot 67. A 66 by J.T. Poston was the lowest number recorded on Easter Sunday.

Eighteenth fairway view from Haig Point hospitality tent

Pan almost didn’t make the trip because he’s hosting an AJGA event back in Houston where he calls home now. His patient, strategic approach to the fourth round proved successful.

Born and raised in Taiwan, Pan held back tears after the win, “It means everything to me. This is why I came to U.S. I want to say to my wife Michelle, thank you for everything. And, dream come true.”

After a bogey on the insanely difficult par five fifteenth—Pan’s clutch pars on 17 and 18 to go with a needed birdie on 16 were the difference.

Golf is brilliant at making dreams come true and even better at breaking hearts. All the Clemson fans wanted a win from D.J., but a relatively unknown player takes the plaid for a second consecutive year at Harbour Town.

How to Play
Harbour Town Golf Links is one of three golf courses at Sea Pines Resort. It’s a Pete Dye design with more recent consulting offered by Jack Nicklaus. Position is paramount on this layout—a high handicap player could easily lose a dozen or more golf balls. For a tee time after the pros leave town, call six months in advance (early October) and expect to pay around $370.

Where to Stay (and Play)
There are several rental homes, villas, condos and hotels in the area, Sea Pines Resort included. A mile from Harbour Town Golf Links across the Calibogue Sound is Haig Point. Only two ways there: boat over on water taxi or ferry or helicopter. Rental homes, the Lighthouse and hotel-like rooms in the Strachen Mansion are available for stays. And while tournament play is happening at Harbour Town, some tee times are available on the Rees Jones design at Haig Point.