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  • Writer's pictureRichard Mandell

Heritage Finds A Sponsor?

It looks as though the famed Heritage Classic, played at Pete Dye’s Harbour Town Golf Links has found a title sponsor, keeping the PGA Tour on Hilton Head Island for at least another year. The first Heritage Classic was played back in 1969 and its typical place in the tour schedule the week after Augusta has become as much of a golfing tradition for many of us as the Masters itself.

The Heritage tournament, regardless of who the title sponsor is, is a vital element of the PGA Tour because Harbour Town is such a different layout than the tour usually experiences. Due to its short length (still officially under 7,000 yards) it flies in the face of the traditional monsters the guys play elsewhere. Amazingly, the players love it despite its “diminutive stature”. Why? It is a shotmaker’s course. The narrow fairways demand precision without the use of a driver and from there, the golfer is challenged by very small target greens surrounded by pot bunkers and human-scale features. This is such a contrast to the typical modern course whose only defense comes in sheer length with very little character of features.

If The Heritage does not survive, then another classic course will go by the wayside, destined for PGA Tour oblivion along with the likes of such different layouts as Butler National, Champions, and most recently and closest to my heart, Westchester West. For me, Harbour Town is such a vital part of the great diversity of golf course architecture that is constantly being pushed aside for more convenient corporate tents, parking, and other “non-golfing” amenities.

So in the wake of golf architecture crisis, I’m stepping up to the task. It’s not yet inked, but Richard Mandell Golf Architecture will become the official title sponsor of The Heritage starting in 2012. My first demand as title sponsor is to return the tournament to its rightful location on the schedule immediately after the Masters. The tournament will return to its original name, The Heritage Classic.

But there are going to have to be some changes. Luckily, CBS should still televise the tournament but in case they take issue in my involvement, I’ll probably just tape a few holes from each round on my video camera and put the footage up on my website. There won’t be any parking costs because, frankly, I can’t possibly drive everyone from the satellite lots to the course in my Town & Country. You can still park there, but you’ll just have to walk. You can probably just park in the streets around the course, maybe even in someone’s driveway. Just don’t get caught.

I’ve been preaching lesser conditions to save money in general and at Harbour Town that idea will hold sway. I just don’t have enough money to get this place in perfect condition. So, the tournament theme this year will be “Brown is the new green and parking is free!” Hey, so are tickets. They should always be free for the kids but I’m going to let the adults in as well. Most of the patrons over the years at events are just there to be seen anyway, so I may as well give some value to the true aficionados who are there to watch the golf.

Please note that spectators are allowed to ask for autographs only immediately around the clubhouse, because I just won’t be able to get too far away from that spot once the day’s play begins. So feel free to ask, but make sure I’m not in the middle of cooking the hot dogs at the time. I would hate to burn them distracted by signing things, especially since I’m only buying twenty dozen for each day and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Unless you can help me convince Sam’s Club to donate some, that’s just the way it will be.

Anyone out there that can polish silver? That’s got to get done my Sunday night I’m sure. As usual, I’m asking for all area supers to pitch in this year, but I’ll need you guys elsewhere. We’ve got to figure out how to print and distribute all the pairing sheets. Odds are, I’m gonna need a few of you just to make runs to Staples all week for ink for my printer.

No ropes this year got no time. Of course, if you’ve read my blog before you know darn-well there won’t be any rakes in the bunkers as well! No scoreboards either (electricity costs are out of the budget). Oh yeah, also no purse this year. You think I can afford that kind of do-re-mi? Come on!

Bottom line: The Heritage Classic will stay in the tournament schedule for the foreseeable future, a great venue that is different than the rest and demands something else from the golfer from tee to green. By preserving this special tournament, we are also preserving an architectural gem. I tell you though, looking back on my to-do list, I may have to quit my day job for a few months. I kinda feel I need something out of this effort… So, I think we’ll have to go with the Richard Mandell Golf Architecture Classic sponsored by Staples and Sam’s Club (I just don’t think I can get the ink or hot dogs any other way).

About Richard: Richard Mandell runs Richard Mandell Golf Architecture in Pinehurst, North Carolina ( Educated as a Landscape Architect at the University of Georgia (he is licensed in both North and South Carolina), Richard has close to two decades’ experience in designing new golf courses and renovating existing ones. Richard may also be the only golf architect in the world who is a certified arborist. He co-hosts a weekly golf radio talk show in Pinehurst and continues to teach a class on Golf Architecture at North Carolina State University which he started in 1997. Mr. Mandell also wrote the award-winning book, Pinehurst ~ Home of American Golf - The Evolution of a Legend (International Network of Golf Book of the Year – 2007).

Richard Mandell has been a Golf Content Creator for the Washington Times Communities since October 20, 2008

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