Island Packet – Generally speaking, if you are sent out to cover the nightlife during Verizon Heritage weekend and you begin your assignment at Harbour Town by looking for interesting-looking people to talk to, it’s a good idea to begin with gentlemen in inflatable Viking helmets. (They don’t really cover Viking helmet-seeking in journalism school; it’s just one of those senses you develop.)
These would be Mike Arseneau of Hilton Head and Alan Walliem from Bloomington, Minn., two avid golf fans who reported their headgear was designed to, and I’m quoting here, “support Lumpy.”
I’m not remotely knowledgeable about golf, so at this point I’m reasonably sure that I’ve stepped into a parallel galaxy that’s run by blow-up Vikings, but Walliem assured me that “Lumpy” is the affectionate nickname for Minneapolis native Tim Herron, a golferthe two have been following throughout their many repeat trips to the Heritage. “This is a phenomenal tournament,” Walliem says.
Moreover, Walliem says, he and Arseneau have turned the Viking-helmet thing into a universal symbol of Lumpy-support, although, I should point out, he might be making that up, because he says this right before about 35 pounds of meat-based snacks materialize for he and his friend.
“Dude, you got three plates!” Arseneau yells gleefully, the subtext being, of course, that there are two of them eating.
“It’s OK, we’re from Minnesota,” Walliem shoots back, and then begins removing anything remotely vegetable-related from his burger: “That’s healthy, get rid of that,” he says, chucking lettuce into the trash, “That’s healthy, it’s gone, that’s healthy, it’s gone … .” Viking helmets, I’m thinking now, make you really good at improv.
PANTS AND BURGERS
More often than not, this is the way it is at Heritage After Hours, the part that happens after play ends. It’s, as a local newspaper smartly wrote earlier in the week, spring break for adults, a near-
perfect destination for those looking to prematurely escape winter and, apparently, living proof that the 2008 list of Acceptable Colors of Pants is a delightful rainbow that includes, but is hardly limited to, sky-blue, pink, burnt sienna, salmon, plaid, salmon plaid and, of course, blinding construction-sign yellow. “I feel like I should have worn a Polo,” said Neal Nelson, a high school student visiting from Rochester, N.Y., who had no idea the Heritage was going on this week, and, additionally, had no idea what Heritage was. But regardless, Nelson came equipped in plaid pants and a Sweden jersey, which brings up two questions: 1. Wait, Sweden jersey?, and 2. Wait, high school students are here?
Also big at Heritage 2008: Pink shirts. If someone could invent a machine that converts pink shirts into energy, we could probably end our dependence on foreign oil. But, as one reporter wisely pointed out, “It’s not the pink shirt that makes the person. It’s the person.”
As you might expect, it’s not cheap here. Beers are $5; the popular vodka-and-Red Bull is a little more. A cheeseburger will run $9, though a regular burger is a steal at $8.50. Cheese, apparently, costs 50 cents at Heritage. (Tip for next year: Bring your own slices, save a bundle. That’s just good economics).
BOATS AND ATMOSPHERE
Let us turn, for a minute, to that atmosphere; specifically the boats, which is kind of a lie, because if these things are “boats,” then I’m Lou Rawls. Boats are small floatable vessels that ferry passengers and freight around; behemoths like the Themis look like they probably have their own gravitational pull. The Themis is easily the largest boat I had ever seen that you couldn’t launch a fighter jet off of. I went to high school in a building smaller than the Themis. Starbucks is introducing a new cup size: tall, grande, venti, Themis. It’s big, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, duly impressed by the ginormous boat situation, our group’s goal for the night became this: Get on a boat. This was a plan for which we spent a great deal of time concocting blueprints for and which two of our ingenious party members managed to pull off. How? By using this tactic: Asking to get on a boat. (If you ever wonder why nothing gets done ever, it’s probably because guys are trying to plan it).
This was the Bud Man, which you can see on the west side of the Harbour Town Yacht Basin; it’s the flagship of what appears to be, according to flags on the adjacent craft, a not-insignificant fleet of vessels out to explore the West Indies in the name of Bud Light.
But every boat needs a captain, and Bud Man had, um, “Bud Man,” who really wanted to go by “Bud Man” in this story (he’s a beer distributor in the area). And every captain needs a sidekick, and Bud Man had his son-in-law, Larry. If you stop by, know that Bud Man (the boat) is two weeks old, and that Larry and Bud Man are extremely friendly massive boat owners (and sharp, too: in explaining Heritage, Larry zinged “There was a fashion show and a golf tournament broke out”).
But in general, you might be surprised how many more people say this scene — the commiserating, the sightseeing, the wandering around a picturesque yacht basin under a gorgeous full moon among boats of the size that you’d think only a “Superman” villain would be comfortable with — is not only more important than attending the tournament, but might actually be the best in all of golf.
That’s what keeps Dennis Hogan coming back, anyway. Not the golf, necessarily — though he’s a fan — but the vibe. The self-described “business guy” and Columbia native was at the Masters last week, but calls that “golf the way it was.” Heritage, by contrast, is like the Masters’ after-party (which, I think, makes Quarterdeck the hotel lobby). “This is about meeting people, about the party, about having fun,” he says, “The way golf should be.”
Hogan says only the British Open compares. “(That) has a uniqueness that’s really great,” he says, “But I’ve never seen a local atmosphere like I have here — the 19th Hole, all these people. It’s all about having a good time.”