HILTON HEAD HAS ALWAYS BEEN A SPECIAL PLACE FOR THIS FAN FAVORITE.
Story by Bailey Gilliam
Professional golfer Stewart Cink is coming back to defend his title at this year’s RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing (April 11-17). No stranger to Hilton Head, this will be Cink’s 23rd consecutive year competing in the event. He’s won it three times. LOCAL Life caught up with Cink at Media Day to get his thoughts on all things Heritage, his favorite moments and memories, favorite local spots and tips for anyone playing Harbour Town Golf Links.
[LOCAL Life] Is your son going to caddy for you again? [Stewart Cink] Yes. My son, Reagan, is my full-time caddy. He caddied all last season, is going to caddy this season and then we’ll go from there. But it looks like he’s probably going to stop at the end of this year.
[LL] Why do you think you’ve won this tournament so many times? [SC] When people ask me my favorite places to go on tour, I usually name Harbour Town. And they used to say, ‘well, of course, you got three wins there.’ But actually, it works the other way. I think I have three wins here because it’s my favorite place to go. I love it after the Masters because it is the anti-Masters. The Masters is incredibly intense. Playing the Masters is a privilege, but the golf course never lets you feel comfortable. It’s really challenging mentally. It’s exhausting. Coming here, I feel like it’s like putting yourself back on recharge. I love the feeling of being here relaxing. People are very friendly and welcoming. It just feels like a really nice place to come. Therefore, I think because of that state of mind and state of my heart, I think it’s produced good play over the years.
[LL] Is there one hole on this course that you can lose it? [SC] Probably 12 is the hole you can lose it on. There are the obvious holes where you can cost yourself strokes fast, and those are the par threes: 4, 14 and 17. Seven can be irritating too because you can hit a good shot, and the ball hits that tree on the left side. But especially you can lose shots on 4 and 14. Mentally you can go bananas on 12 because you can hit good shots and be kind of stymied. It’s so easy to get bad yardage on that hole where you don’t have a comfortable shot to the green, and short is no good and long is no good. You have to figure out how to do the right distance. There are just a lot of places that drive you crazy here because you think you hit a pretty good one, and a tree has other ideas.
[LL] Do you have any tips for an amateur playing this course? [SC] I’m a terrible teacher, so I can’t give you any tips on how to play better golf. I think this course is so iconic because of the 18th hole. You get to 17 and 18 it’s like, ‘ahh the last,’ but the holes before that are all so incredible too. I mean the trees, and it’s just such a beautiful place that I feel like people play here and they just spend their whole day anticipating that 17 and 18 when you just have to pay attention along the way too. There are some really neat holes out there.
[LL] Have you played any other courses on the island? [SC] Yeah a lot because I played here in junior golf, and I played here in college. There used to be a big tournament in Palmetto Dunes. I played one of my earliest pro tournaments before even minor leagues. I’ve been coming here a lot. I feel very, very at home.
[LL] Where do you like to go out to eat when you’re here? [SC] Charlie’s (L’Etoile Verte) is great. And then there’s also that little local place where you have to stand in line (The Sea Shack). And Chow Daddy’s. We love all the restaurants.
[LL] How is this tournament different than other PGA Tour tournaments? [SC] Most of them are in big cities. We have the sports crowd, which is like the same crowd that goes to their NFL or NBA games; they’re just like sports fans. And here it feels a little bit more like the people who come to this tournament are Hilton Head fans. And I mean that in a great way. The people really love it here. You see the same faces year after year. I’ve gotten to know people in the crowd just because I see them so much. And so it’s a little different. It’s not necessarily as raucous as some of the other sports crowds out there. Nowadays, it’s big, it’s got a lot of fans and it’s awesome that it’s that way. But here, the crowd is a little different, the tournament feels a little bit more quaint. Here the golf course is a little more quaint, and the crowds are a little more polite. It’s nice to be in front of crowds like the Phoenix Open where you have crazy showers with beer when somebody does something great, and it is exciting, but it’s also really nice to play in front of the same people year after year. I feel like it’s a family tradition.
[LL] What are some of your favorite moments here? You’ve won this tournament three times. Was the first one your biggest moment or a more recent one? [SC] They’re all great, but the first two have been so long ago now that I think the most recent one with Reagan caddying. I built a big lead, and I just kind of stayed out in front and was the leader the whole way. That was probably the best. The 2004 playoff was a long playoff, and then we had a controversial finish, which kind of tarnished it just a little bit, but a win’s a win. And then in 2000 it was my first time ever playing here. So I think last year though, being able to get a win like that, winning with an exclamation point, that was probably the best. It doesn’t happen very often in careers. And for me, it was only the second time I had a really big lead coming up to the last hole and got to enjoy that walk.
[LL] How do you feel heading into this year’s tournament? [SC] There’s always the question of when you’re the defending champion, the schedule is a little different because you’ve got a few more obligations. So coming off of the Masters, we’re going to have to be doing some pretty disciplined scheduling and making sure I can be around for everything I want to be at, like the cannon, the opening ceremony, and all that. So I’m looking forward to it. I just love coming back here every year. And this year is even more special being defending champion and with Reagan caddying. It’s such a family place. And I’m way older than most golfers on tour, so I just cherish events like this even more than others because of recent wins and some of the memories we’ve built here. LL
PGA Tour Wins (8)
• Canon Greater Hartford Open (1997)
• MCI Classic (2000)
• MCI Heritage (2004)
• WGC-NEC Invitational (2004)
• Travelers Championship (2008)
• The Open Championship (2009)
• Safeway Open (2020)
• RBC Heritage (2021)
All grown up
“My first Heritage as a marketing and communications director was in 2004 – the year Stewart Cink won his second Heritage. After the final round, he was in the media center doing his post-round interview, while his youngest son, Reagan, was flying around the adjacent tennis courts on his Heelys sneakers. It was fun to see both of them all grown up and Reagan caddying for this dad at the 2021 tournament. No Heelys sneakers this time.” — Angela McSwain, Heritage Classic Foundation
Interesting facts about Stewart Cink
• Born in 1973 in Huntsville, Alabama
• Lives in Duluth, Georgia
• 6-foot-4, 205 pounds
• Took up the game when his parents, single-digit handicappers, left him at a driving range before he was old enough to go on the course.
• Was a husband and a father while still at Georgia Tech.
• Member of East Lake GC, host venue of the Tour Championship.
• Outdoor enthusiast who loves hiking, camping, biking and skiing.