Notebook: Heritage champ McDowell gets, gives special inspiration

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comApril 17, 2014 

Kyler Aubrey of Statesboro, Ga., was born with cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life. But on the Harbour Town Golf Links, he's flying high, thanks to the luck of the Irish.

Aubrey was part of the celebration when Graeme McDowell of Ireland won the 2013 RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

He's back this year, following the friend he met at the 2012 PGA Championship on Kiawah Island.

Aubrey kept getting stuck in the sand on the trails around the Ocean Course on Kiawah when another Irishman, CBS Sports announcer David Feherty, intervened.

"David Feherty came up and gave him his pass," said Aubrey's father, Josh Aubrey, a sports videographer with The Statesboro Herald. "If it hadn't been for that, probably none of this would have happened."

Things happened quickly for Aubrey with his all-access pass. He met McDowell and they hit it off. McDowell asked Aubrey to stay with him at the 18th hole so he could introduce him to the winner, Rory McIlroy, who gave him the glove he wore up the 18th fairway.

Since then, McDowell and Aubrey have communicated by text and FaceTime.

Josh Aubrey describes the surreal sight of his son playing Graeme McDowell on his Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game while watching McDowell live via FaceTime as he hits practice balls.

Aubrey, 21 and a senior at Statesboro High School, has followed McDowell at other tournaments. McDowell hosted him at his Nona Blue restaurant in Orlando, and sent him shirts from his G-Mac By Kartel line.

McDowell said his friendship with Aubrey is a two-way street.

"I feel like I learn a lot from him about being brave and smiling," McDowell said. "It doesn't matter how disappointing, how frustrating you get by golf, he puts my life in perspective.

"Certainly last year in this tournament I used him kind of as my inspiration. Anytime I felt remotely frustrated or disappointed on the golf course, I took a look over at his smiling face. He didn't mind if I had a birdie or bogey, he was just happy to be out there."

Josh Aubrey called McDowell admirable. He said he's gone well beyond what you'd expect in support of his son.

"He kind of gets it, I guess," Josh Aubrey said. "And that's nice to see."

FRASER'S WEATHER

This year's weather is balmy compared to the final round of the 1982 Heritage, when Tom Watson won for the second time.

Back then, the tournament was played in March and the temperature never got above 40 in the final round. With the wind chill, the temperature was near freezing. Watson was decked out in his rain suit and a beanie cap he'd worn three years earlier while winning at windswept Muirfield Village.

Watson is in the field again this year, and he joked about that hat.

"Mr. Fraser (Sea Pines founder Charles E. Fraser) didn't like me to wear that beanie cap," Watson said. "He wanted to promote the nice weather here, but it was cold."

Regardless of what "Mr. Fraser" would think, fans need to be dressed right for today's weather.

The on-site meteorologist the PGA Tour works with forecasts mostly cloudy and breezy weather today with rain developing by late morning. Rain could be heavy at times in the afternoon, with a high of 64 and winds of 15 to mph, gusting to 30 mph.

TV MILESTONE

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first national network telecast of the Heritage.

It also was the first Heritage to be played in the spring, and NBC was rewarded with a win by the dazzling Johnny Miller, his fourth victory in eight tournaments.

NBC, which did the telecast for only one year before CBS Sports took over, planned a full hour of Saturday coverage, from 5 to 6 p.m. But on that same night, UCLA and N.C. State University got entangled in an epic double-overtime game in the Final Four, which cut the Heritage coverage to about 30 minutes, with an hour's worth of ads crammed in there.

By contrast, scheduled live coverage this year by CBS Sports and The Golf Channel totals 13.5 hours.

Also, Fox Sports affiliates carry the tournament to Australia, Pan-Asia, France, Spain, South Africa, Germany, Mexico, Venezuela, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

And BSKYB and CNBC Europe air the tournament to a potential 60 million households throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

HANDWRITING ON THE WALL

Old-school golf fans are missing a favorite attraction at this year's Heritage: The calligraphy scoreboard that stood near the Harbour Town clubhouse is absent this year.

Fans now get better views of the players' practice area near the 10th tee, but they can no longer see the complete score of everyone in the tournament at a single glance.

With smartphones and electronic scoreboards, calligraphy is going the way of hickory clubs.

But calligrapher Casey Jones continues to ply his ancient trade on a large, hand-printed scoreboard in the media tent, where all the electronics also are available.

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