Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

RBC Heritage: Only fatherhood keeps native son Byrd away this year

Posted 4/11/2012 3:40:00 PM

Former Columbia resident and two-time Clemson All-American Jonathan Byrd will not be playing in this week’s RBC Heritage, South Carolina’s lone PGA Tour event. He has a reasonable excuse, though; her name is Kate.

Byrd, a five-time PGA Tour winner, was headed back to his home in Sea Island, Ga., following the Masters, planning a three-week stay with wife Amanda and their third child. The baby girl arrived March 30, the Friday before the year’s first major.

”I’m going to miss the Heritage for, I think, the first time since I’ve been a pro, and that’s disappointing,” said the 34-year-old, who played in 10 straight. “But I’m excited to go home and spend three weeks with the family and our newborn baby, Kate. We’re just going to enjoy each other.”

Still, Byrd said he’ll be keeping tabs on the Heritage, where 11 players with South Carolina ties are in the invitational field of 132. A 12th native son, North Augusta’s Scott Brown, a PGA Tour rookie, was sixth on the alternates’ list as of Monday.

The homegrown lineup includes 2009 U.S. Open champion and former Byrd teammate at Clemson Lucas Glover, who missed the Masters cut and is playing only his fourth tournament after an early-season knee injury. Glover has played every year but one since 2002.

Also in the field, for the eighth consecutive year, is 2011 FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas of Greenville, who has more than the normal state allegiance to the RBC Heritage. His father, Jay, played in his first of 30 Heritages in 1977, meeting his future wife, Jan, that week.

“It’s a tournament that’s been close to my family’s heart, for obvious reasons,” Bill Haas said, laughing. “The reason I’m here now is that tournament.”

Besides Glover, four other former or current Clemson players are in the field: PGA Tour veteran D.J. Trahan, second-year tournament winner Kyle Stanley, PGA Tour rookie (at age 38) Tommy Biershenk, and Corbin Mills, a junior at Clemson and defending U.S. Amateur Public Links champion.

A crowd favorite is Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, a former factory worker from Bishopville who finished third last year, a shot out of the Brandt Snedeker-Luke Donald playoff. Others are USC product Mark Anderson (Beaufort), former Wofford star William McGirt, transplanted Californian Matt Bettencourt (Simpsonville) and former Hilton Head resident Kris Blanks.

The South Carolina-tied players voiced thanks to sponsors Royal Bank of Canada and Boeing South Carolina for securing the tournament for the next five years.

“We as players would miss it,” Haas said, “but also for what a PGA Tour tournament brings to the community; it’s undeniable. I think it does so much for all of South Carolina, and it was great to see RBC and Boeing step up.”

Though he won’t be there, Byrd said he will keep tabs on play, while giving baby Kate some early indoctrination into what daddy and Harbour Town are about.

“It’ll be hard to watch on TV, but I’ve got a lot of friends playing in the tournament, and I’m excited for (tournament director) Steve Wilmot and the new sponsorship with RBC. I think it’s going to be a great partnership,” Byrd said.

“They always put on a good show, and I love sitting at home holding our new baby; I’ll probably end up watching on TV and enjoying the entertainment.”

Tickets (weekly or daily) for the RBC Heritage can be purchased by calling (843) 671-2448, or go to www.rbcheritage.com.