April 22, 2013

Wind bends, doesn't break RBC Heritage revelers

After two days of overcast, damp weather at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, the sun shined and wind gusted -- up to 41 mph at times -- on the Harbour Town Golf Links. That made it a good day for sweater salesmen and fans who braved the gale.

After two days of cool, damp weather at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, the sun shined and wind gusted -- up to 41 mph at its highest -- Sunday on the Harbour Town Golf Links.

That made it a good day in the merchandise tents, where jackets, sweatshirts and fleeces got snatched up, as they were most of the weekend, according to retail manager Caroline Basarab-Dennison.

Fittingly, the stores sold out of several styles of windbreakers, she said.

The gusts knocked drinks and chairs over, but didn't seem to keep those in the gallery from enjoying themselves as they watched Graeme McDowell shoot a 2-under-par 69, then top reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

Donna Matthews needed a quick hand to keep the wind from knocking the hot-pink hat off her head as she stood along the 18th hole Sunday afternoon. She repeatedly had to jerk her hand up to catch it, but she found it more amusing than annoying.

Matthews didn't know how windy it was going to be, she said, but it wouldn't have kept her from wearing the hat, anyway.

"I've gotten more comments on my hat than you can imagine," she said.

Kyle Rogge, standing up the fairway from Matthews, said the weather wasn't keeping him from enjoying himself much, either, despite his apparel choice of a Team USA basketball jersey, shorts and a tartan visor around his neck.

"I wish I had some warmer apparel, but you just roll with it," Rogge said.

The wind was perhaps worst along the fairway of the 10th hole.

Marc Bergman described it as feeling like a "wind tunnel" while mixing mimosas at the nearby Sea Pines Montessori Academy concessions trailer.

Sales were down 10 percent from last year at the stand, which serves as a fundraiser for the school, said Bergman, a parent from the school.

"There's definitely less traffic this year," he said about the area.

Crowds might have migrated to the Heritage Lawn, an interactive spectator area new to the tournament this year near the 17th green and 18th tee box, where Hilton Head Preparatory School was running a concession stand.

Sales were "better than last year, but we would have done a whole lot better if the weather had been better," said Bruce Builder, a parent from the school, who was helping out at the beer cart.

But tournament ticket sales this year were about the same as in 2012, said ticket director Chris Tobia.

Sales were slow on Friday and Saturday because of the weather, he said, but improved Sunday -- better than the final day of the tournament last year, according to Tobia's unofficial count. The Heritage does not release exact ticket sales numbers, but by many estimates, the tournament draws more than 100,000 spectators during a typical tournament week.

Winds blew strongest in the early afternoon with sustained speeds between 20 and 25 miles per hour, according to PGA Tour weather official Stewart Williams. In the late afternoon, the sunlight disappeared behind overcast skies. Temperatures stayed in the 50s and 60s throughout the day.

It was reminiscent of the Sunday of 2007's tournament but lacked the destructive nature of that round, which knocked limbs from trees, blew sand from the bunkers and forced play to be halted for the day and resumed on Monday. Winds that year gusted to 50 mph.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at

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