Awful orange shorts, giant bunny ears and T-Pain: A Night at the Verizon Heritage (2009)

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The Heritage is basically its Super Bowl and Academy Awards rolled into one package, albeit a package extremely comfortable with wearing salmon-colored pants.

Island Packet — “12 dollars,”my bartender said with a good-natured smile as he slid over my complete order of precisely two beers — an upmarket vintage import known stateside as “Bud Light” — and wittily I replied, “Blerph?” Twelve was a good many more dollars than I was expecting to pay for such luxury — I find Bud Light generally costs that much only if a professional sports franchise or possibly Jimmy Buffett is playing in my direct line of vision — so I gathered my wits and re-opened the wallet.

“Sorry,” I said, trying not to appear flumbergasted. “Wasn’t ready for that.”

“Yeah,” the bartender replied dryly, in the tired timbre of a man who had enjoyed this conversation several million times today, adding, “Welcome to Hilton Head.”

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Lonely Island – I’m On A Boat (feat. T-Pain)

[audio http://bit.ly/9SGHG]

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Welcome to Hilton Head again, Heritage golfers, fans and boaters; the recession may be hitting ticket sales, sponsorships and yacht-slip rentals (noticeably absent this year was a behemoth floating warship spotted in ’08 called the Themis, which I can only assume was not in attendance this year because it was busy applying for statehood) but it’s not hitting the tab for domestics, nor the drive, stronger than that for food, sleep and fish n’ chips, for adults to have a grownup spring break, even on an unseasonably chilly but amazingly starry night at Harbour Town.

Friday night once again saw the usual confluence of relaxed, good-natured and margarita-fueled entertainment: the B-Town Playaz did some playazing under the Liberty Oak in Gregg Russell’s spot, making good-natured jokes about Russell’s indefinite refusal to play “Enter Sandman”; ladies bravely refused to let the brisk temps interfere with their choice of holiday skirt lengths, some of which ranged from “short” to “washcloth”; and the guys folks came out in their best Easter-egg-colored getups to mingle with the minglers (including one with the stunning combination of cigar + popped collar + aviator shades + pink sweater, which is like, 80 points). And Harbour Town looked its spiffiest on what’s basically its Super Bowl and Academy Awards rolled into one package, albeit a package extremely comfortable with wearing salmon-colored pants.

(Erm, make that salmon and plaid. Aaron Patel, a 28-year-old CPA from Charlotte went with the plaid, he said, “because I think they’re cool. Who wears plaid pants?” We countered that we’d seen several people wearing plaid, and he responded “Shorts, of course. But how many plaid pants do you see?” Answer: actually a lot, but, OK.)

These were the sorts of brave interviews conducted by the annual crowd of Packet staffers, all of whom graciously agreed to donate their Friday night to Important Journalism, as it pertained to going out to bars. And if we all noticed a more chill, measured vibe around the proceedings this year, such a thing might be welcome in what, even for this crowd, are uncertain times.

In fact, in what might be the Heritage’s best (and by “best” we mean “only”) display of icepick-sharp comic irony, as well as AutoTune, one vessel turned its flat-screen TV to the crowd to show the Andy Samberg/Lonely Island’s “SNL” digital short “I’m On A Boat,” featuring T-Pain. Am reasonably sure this is the only time T-Pain was brought up at the Heritage, except for that day he caddied for Stewart Cink.

Did we find anyone in bunny ears, you reasonably well be asking right now? Glad you brought it up. Because Michael Boozer, a 30-year-old Columbia native wearing what our notes refer to as “awful orange shorts” attended Friday’s round dressed as the “Heritage Bunny,” complete with pink and white rabbit ears. Boozer and his friends have been coming to the tournament for the past nine years because they’re golf fans and because, and I’m quoting here, “It’s about the only fun thing to do in South Carolina.” Pfft. Someone hasn’t been to South of the Border. (And yes, to verify that his name actually is Boozer, we checked his ID. Verified.)

And so it went for the night, until we ended up taking in an impromptu yacht-deck concert by, uh, some guy with a guitar we couldn’t get to because he was surrounded by all sorts of people while on a yacht playing Mellencamp, Petty and bluesy country songs. This, it should be noted, ABSOLUTELY INFURIATED one Luke McCary, a Columbia architect and Dustin Johnson fan down for his first tournament, who seethed at the inequity of having to compete for attention with a dude who was playing a guitar on a yacht. “THAT IS NOT FAIR AT ALL,” McCary said, though I put it in all-caps to make it sound angrier. “The guitar playing,” he said with a shake of the head. “That’s where the inequality starts.”

Thus began a lengthy if good-natured rant about guys who can play guitars on expensive boats and the various reasons they stink, a rant that quickly began to amass a series of increasingly vocal “Wait, yeahs!” from, uh, me. What can I say: McCary makes a good point. “I would feel more comfortable if he was playing guitar on a barrel,” McCary said.

Which might not be a logical musical idea, but would make a great Lonely Island video.

(Reporting for this column was done by Kate Cerve, Renee Dudley, Liz Mitchell, Leeann Vrabel and Sarah Welliver)

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

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