Woke up this morning in a cold sweat. Turns out, the blankets in the South are really thin, and putting your fan on full blast isn’t a smart idea. Live and learn.
A shower, some eggs, breakfast sausage and toast later, and I was back to normal. Crisis averted.
The opening ceremonies for the 50th RBC Heritage this morning were cancelled due to weather, so I had some time to kill. Turned on CNN and saw Chemical attacks; too negative. Flipped to The Golf Channel and saw Patrick Reed’s smug cheeks, and turned the TV off. Not the best start to the day. I briefly considered a pity party, then realized where I was and started prepping for Day 1. About an hour later, I was on the road and ready to get things started.
It was roughly a 20 minute drive to the course; 10 of which were spent trying to find a good radio station. Eventually Bon Jovi came on and I left it there. Not the best, but not the worst. I also had to maneuver my way through a roundabout.
Eventually, I got through the gates, got my Parking Pass, and headed to the Media Lot.
My shuttle driver from the Media Lot to the Course, was a gem. Mark from Pittsburgh. He moved here three years ago, and said his only regret is he didn’t do it thirty years ago. He offered me a house to stay in next year, and tried to convince me to move to Hilton Head. As he finished his pitch, we rolled up to the Media Centre. I grabbed his card and thanked Mark for the ride. I’ll give his offer some thought, but that’s something for future RJ to figure out.
Next, it was time to see who was on the course and who I’d try to speak to. That, plus food (It’s free, so c’mon). Not too many players were in the Monday Pro-Am, but Corey Conners, David Hearn and Ollie Schniederjans were ones I was interested in. I made some notes on them, and headed out to the course. Turns out they still had like three hours left in their rounds, so I headed to the Range and Putting Green. Great choice.
As you can see, I hung out with (*was in close proximity to) Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Chappell, Grayson Murray etc, etc. Couple takeaways:
Dustin Johnson DEMOLISHES the ball. No surprise, but its still jarring to see with your own eyes:
Another: Patrick Cantlay’s short game is quite tasty.
I watched them practice for a bit and then took a stroll around the course. It’s a little wet, and the air feels sort of thick, but overall the course is in fantastic shape. There are also some things to look out for:
The 18th at Harbour Town is pretty iconic, so of course I had to document that; lighthouse and all (it’s decorated differently this year for the 50th Anniversary of the RBC Heritage).
Then it was back into the Media Centre for some snacks and a coffee, and then, time to track down my guys. Corey Conners was the first to tee off, so he’s the first I followed:
Sidenote: I said “Good Luck this week, Corey!” after he hit this shot, and he said thank you. Salt of the earth.
A couple hours later as he walked off the 18th green, I asked him for two minutes. He obliged. We talked about his season, growing up in Canada, how old he was when he first broke par, being in contention with Tiger at the Valspar, camaraderie on Tour with other Canadians, his thoughts on the Masters, and finished up talking some playoff hockey. Have a listen:
After that I was quite cold, as the temperature had dropped significantly. I started walking back to the clubhouse to grab my jacket, which is about a 10 minute walk, when a cart zoomed up behind me and asked if I wanted a ride. It was Corey and his caddie. I hopped in and talked his caddies ear off the whole way back. Great guys. They predict the winning score will be right around 16-under for the week.
After another coffee to warm me up, I battled the elements and went back out to try and hunt down David Hearn or Ollie Schneiderjans. Okay, full disclosure, I had some M&M peanuts too.
On the way, something caught my eye and I had to stop. You see, anytime there is a Pro-Am, there are ample opportunities for hilarity. Upon seeing this guys barrel and hearing others call him “Big Mike,” I had a strong kick of intuition telling me to take out my phone and start filming. So I did. And my intuition was correct. Turn the sound up on this one (Thumbnail is sideways, but the video isn’t)
The instant tee grab right as the rest of the group yell Fore! is amazing.
Okay, back to my quest for another interview. Ollie Schneiderjans and David Hearn went off opposite tees, so I had a decision to make. I had already gotten a Canadian and Ollie is, well, better than David Hearn, (and has arguably the best hair on Tour) so I chose him. Glad I did. Here’s a shot of that hair, er, his golf swing:
I caught his group as they were putting on the seventh green (Ollie teed off on 10, so the ninth hole would be his last) and followed them the rest of the way in. After Ollie hit his tee shot on nine, I asked his caddie if he might have a few minutes once he’s done. He said ask Ollie. I asked Ollie. Ollie said yes. In fact, Ollie wanted me to come in the ropes and do the interview as he walked down the fairway. Sweet deal for me.
We talked about his hair (of course), his sports allegiances, being in contention at the Waste Management Open with the crazy crowds, what he’s learned since turning pro, pros and cons of being on Tour, how he got into golf, and what tournament he wants to win the most.
And with that, my work on Day 1 was complete. Tomorrow is supposed to rain, so I’m not sure what will come of the day, but keep an eye on my Twitter @RJMcCullough and check back here tomorrow for another exciting rendition of “RJ at the Heritage”