April 2024 Faces

Club leaders in the Lowcountry: Stephen Hasley, Alex MacDonald, Ted David

Welcome to the Lowcountry, where you always belong.


One thing that ties so many of us together in the Lowcountry is how few of us are “from” here. For the most part, we hail from less forgiving climes – the Midwest, the Northeast – and come here seeking a new life and a change of scenery.

And then we get here and realize we are a stranger in a strange land. Fortunately, that rarely lasts long because the social fabric of the Lowcountry is woven in a way that gives everyone a soft place to land. There is a tribe for everyone here, as evidenced by the vast number of clubs available to anyone looking for camaraderie. From sports to card games, collectibles to fine wine, there’s a seat at a table somewhere just waiting for you.

In the following pages, we’ll introduce a few locals who found their tribe and give them a chance to share what makes theirs so unique.

Stephen Hasley

This Ohio native helps foster a flourishing ski culture on the sands of Hilton Head.

Stephen Hasley - Hilton Head Island

The story of how Stephen Hasley came to call the Lowcountry home is a fairly common one – he arrived after retirement, moving down from Ohio. And like many transplants who were drawn here, he found that this area provides one of the most indelibly perfect places to call home. But it doesn’t provide everything. 

“Being able to experience real skiing conditions, being up in the mountains, it’s a spiritual experience. Even when you’re not skiing, the scenery is just incredible” he said. “And I knew that when we moved to the Lowcountry, that would be a compromise I’d have to make.”

For the long-time skier, it would be an adjustment. But not more than being an avid skier in Columbus, Ohio, a portion of the Buckeye state famously located in the wide valley of a vast midwestern plain. Rediscovering skiing in his 40s, he was taking regular trips to some of the ski resorts that dot the Appalachian foothills around Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. But it was a trip gifted to him for his 50th birthday, his wife sending him to California’s Palisades Tahoe, that changed everything.

“I went out there loving skiing,” he said. “I came back crazed for skiing.”

Stephen Hasley is president of the Hilton Head Ski Club
Stephen Hasley is president of the Hilton Head Ski Club. The club creates and plans monthly and quarterly activities, plus ski and non-ski trips for people who enjoy an active, fun and social lifestyle. The club’s next trip will be February 1-8 to Telluride Ski Resort at The Mountain Lodge.

So even before he made the move South, traveling the same I-77 route as countless island-bound Buckeyes before him, he was getting plugged into the Hilton Head Ski Club. In a few years he was named its president. And while the club has helped Hasley find others locally who share his love of skiing, it’s also given him a chance to get out on the mountains more than ever. Of course, with the Lowcountry’s famous lack of mountains, getting that lift ticket usually requires first getting a plane ticket. 

“We do one ski trip a year. This year it was Snowmass in Colorado,” Hasley said. “In 2025 we’re going to Telluride. With the skiing industry you have to plan a couple of years out just to get good pricing.”

As the club’s former trip director, Hasley knows the behind-the-scenes wrangling. “It’s a lot to work with. All of our trips include housing, ski rental and all the rest of it. We’ve been out as far as Tahoe, but everyone prefers a short plane ride. Park City is one we’ve done a number of times. You fly from Atlanta to Salt Lake City, and in an hour you’re on the mountain.”

The camaraderie of the mountains weaves into regular golf outings, Christmas parties, Oktoberfest celebrations, barbecues, dolphin cruises and monthly TGIF happy hours. But it’s forged on mountains from Telluride to Big Sky, from Steamboat to Vail;  trips that let Halsey recapture that spiritual magic of skiing with his fellow transplanted islanders. 

Stephen Hasley - Hilton Head Island - Ski Club
Hilton Head Island Ski Club

For someone as enamored with skiing as Stephen Hasley, joining the Hilton Head Ski Club when he moved here in 2010 was a no-brainer.

“It’s one of the longest-standing clubs on the island, established in 1992 primarily for skiers from the East Coast,” he said. “We started with about 17 members, but we have 88 now. It’s a very active group.”

The group helps Hasley and other members scratch that itch that only skiing can reach – not only through massive annual trips to some of the finest ski resorts in the world but also through get-togethers that rekindle that sense of community forged in the lodge after a day on the slopes.

“It’s like any sport – you go away for a week with people and learn about them and their backgrounds, and that carries into other things you do as a club,” he said. “Even the folks who don’t ski get together to talk about skiing. It’s like anything – when you get together, you talk about the sport you love.”

And they’re always looking for more members. If you’re looking to join, Hasley said, “I do not mind my phone number being given out – we also have a website,” he said. For the record, it’s 614-323-9614 and Hiltonheadskiclub.com, respectively.

Alex MacDonald

This former professional player is spearheading a rugby comeback on Hilton Head

Alex MacDonald - Hilton Head Island

Very few people can definitively point to the coolest thing that’s ever happened in their life. Fewer still have 20,000 witnesses when it happens, or can pull it up on YouTube to show you the highlights. Alex MacDonald is one of the lucky ones, with footage from his performance in the Major League Rugby semifinals to prove it.

“We lost the semifinal to San Diego on this last-minute kick, which was crazy. It was just loud, it was beautiful, and we played really well,” he said, thumbing through clips from his stunning performance in an unfortunate loss for his Rugby United New York team. “And then Covid happened the next year and shut everything down.”

It should have been a brief pause in MacDonald’s impressive rugby career. Hand-picked by the coach at the Citadel, he earned All-American honors as a Bulldog despite never having stepped foot on a pitch before. His only experience prior to that came from watching his uncle, Tim Burke, play with the Hilton Head Rugby Club. After the Citadel he spent a summer “swinging hammers” on the island, before being offered a scholarship to play rugby for Life University’s famed Running Eagles.

“I emailed the athletic director at Life, and he called me about two hours later and said, ‘we would love to meet you’,” said MacDonald. “So that Friday I went to Atlanta with my dad and met with Dan Payne, who went on to become the CEO of USA Rugby.”

At Life University MacDonald proudly states that he “lost two national championships.” But more importantly, it sharpened his rugby acumen and led to greater opportunities abroad. He would follow that with two years playing for Trinity College in Ireland, where the Emerald Isle players referred to him as “The Big Dumb Yank.” It’s a nickname he wore with pride, towering over his teammates.

“I got to play in Italy, Scotland, England and all around Ireland,” he said. “It’s much more physical over there. Ireland’s wet, cold and muddy, so they play much more structured and organized.”

He would return to the States for two years, playing professionally in New York before that semifinal game, before Covid, and before an injury that would sideline his professional rugby dreams. “I played a bit after that, but I definitely didn’t feel like the player I was before,” he said. I probably had that injury in my head a bit.”

Working professionally as a rugby analyst for Match Sense, his love of the game never faltered. But by the time he’d returned to the Lowcountry, his love of playing had taken a hit. The Hilton Head Rugby Club had long disbanded, and anyone who wanted to play had to travel to Savannah. MacDonald joined a few friends making that trip; his itch to play returned, and the possibility of bringing rugby back to the island was born.

“I put out a Facebook post last July just seeing if anyone wanted to come to Chaplin Park on Saturday to play. I think four guys showed up,” he said. Soon those four became a dozen. And by the time they decided they were ready for a game that November, they fielded 25 players in front of a crowd of 150 and beat the Hartsville Hydras by 50 points. “Last weekend we played the Charlotte Barbarians, and it was an absolute war… After the game I kind of looked around the squad and I’m like, ‘There are no new guys here anymore. Now you guys are rugby players.’”

Alex MacDonald is a former professional rugby player
Alex MacDonald is a former professional rugby player who is determined to bring rugby back to Hilton Head Island. The Hilton Head Rugby Club was formed in 1974 and played a large part on the island for decades before disbanding in 2017. Last year MacDonald applied for a Division III membership for the revived club and was accepted into the Georgia Rugby Union.

Starting out in 1974, the Hilton Head Rugby Club was one of the longest-running traditions among local males of a certain age. To this day, if you ask anyone who has been here long enough, they’ll be able to tell you about their time playing in the club or cheering on their friends from the sideline. 

It all came to an end in 2017, and if you ask anyone about why, you’ll probably get a different answer every time.

“I don’t know what happened. I just knew there wasn’t a team anymore,” said Alex MacDonald, who relaunched the storied club last year and has since taken it to new heights. Whereas the old Hilton Head Rugby Club was more of a full-contact social club, MacDonald has set them on the path to being a true force in regional rugby. In 2025 the team will compete against Savannah, Charleston, Macon and Augusta as part of the Georgia Rugby Union.

“I think people were waiting for someone to bring Hilton Head Rugby back,” said MacDonald. “I just rolled the snowball down the hill.”

And the old guard, who made a “Head Rugby” bumper sticker standard issue on Hilton Head cars, have come out to voice their support. “They’re still part of the club. They’re just not on the field,” said MacDonald. “But all those guys still come to games and buy us equipment. They still want to be involved.”

In the future, MacDonald hopes the club will continue to grow, adding a league for women and a youth league. If you want to get involved, check out Hilton Head Rugby Club on Facebook and Instagram.

Ted David

A college hobby dealt this Berkeley Hall resident into a lifetime of bridge mastery and leadership. 

Ted David Hilton Head

Ted David probably should have known that bridge was going to play a massive role in his life when it almost cost him his diploma.

“I learned bridge in college while I was at University of Illinois,” he said. “I nearly flunked out that semester.”

Thankfully, he was able to resist the game’s siren song and graduated with honors. But even as he moved on from academia, starting a family and building an amazing career as a certified public accountant (CPA), being a partner in a major accounting/consulting firm and a government financial manager, a hand was never far away. He joined the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) in the early 1960s, playing competitively for the first time.

“During my working years I played a lot of social bridge, where you’d sit down with neighbors, play a few hands and kibitz,” he said. “Every once in a while I’d play in local club games and the occasional tournament, but it wasn’t all that much.  

Then came retirement to Berkeley Hall in 2004 and his reintroduction to a game he would soon represent as an island ambassador of sorts. As treasurer and board member of The Hilton Head Island Bridge Association, he’s spent the last 20 years helping to build the tremendously popular organization. He’s also rediscovered his love of the game and the tenacity of his play.

“I’ve played in a couple of national tournaments. I don’t go to them anymore because there are just so many people,” he said. “But I’ve been attending more regional tournaments and play often at the HH Bridge Club.”

And in those tournaments he’s managed to rack up a respectable number of “master points,” the grading system by which the ACBL determines a player’s skill. Six or seven years ago, by his reckoning, he achieved the title of Life Master. Two years later, he was named a Bronze Life Master. He is now approaching his next milestone of becoming  a Silver Life Master. 

But it’s not just his own love of the game that he’s fostered since moving to the Lowcountry. Through his work with the Hilton Head Bridge Association, he’s spreading that love and helping more and more people discover the joys of bridge. He’s also seen the local club grow to become the biggest in the state and one of the largest in the country. 

“We had a major regional tournament in Hilton Head in February this year (which I was honored to chair), one of over 60 played around the country annually.  We had close to 1,200 people attend, making Hilton Head the third largest regional tournament in the country in the last 12 months,” he said. “I was working for close to a year before we actually had the tournament.  Hilton Head is consistently one of the top five regional bridge tournaments in the country.”

Ted David is the treasurer and is on the board of directors of the Hilton Head Island Bridge Association
Ted David is the treasurer and is on the board of directors of the Hilton Head Island Bridge Association. He was also chairman of the 2024 Hilton Head Regional Bridge Tournament at the Marriott Resort and Spa (now the Hilton), which attracted nearly 1,200 attendees this year, about 80 percent of pre-pandemic attendance. Before retiring to Berkley Hall in 2004, David was a partner with Touche Ross and Co. (now Deloitte), among the largest professional service firms in the world. He was also the deputy chief financial officer of the Department of Agriculture and the chief financial officer of the National Weather Service.

As one of the largest bridge clubs in the country, and the biggest in the state, the Hilton Head Island Bridge Association has been a success story amid a very hard period for the game they support.

“We lost membership during the pandemic. We’re at about 75 percent of our membership before the pandemic; 75 percent is good right now. A lot of clubs have gone out of business,” said Hilton Head Bridge Association treasurer Ted David. “Fortunately, we’re a community-owned club.”

David points to the club’s vibrant teaching program as perhaps its biggest asset in weathering that storm. “One of the challenges of bridge is that it attracts many retired players, but not a lot of young people who know the game,” he said. “Our teaching program is how we attract new members … we have some very good instructors. Anyone who wants to even try out bridge should come to our club and learn.”

Visit bridgewebs.com/hiltonheadisland to learn more.

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