KIAWAH ISLAND — Rob Legasey came in from walking the back nine holes with sweat dripping from his whiskers. He had spent a few hours out on the Ocean Course, on hot sands with no shade and a heat index in the 90s.
A range of prices for food and other items at the PGA Championship:$3 – Bottled water$4 – Cold drink$5 – Bud Light$8 – Frozen margarita$9 – Chicken tenders and french fries$10 – BBQ fish tacos$25.81 – Baseball cap with PGA logo, $10 to embroider it (Comes with air conditioning in the Golf Shop.)
The Johns Island man leaned back into the cool stream of air coming from the backrest of one of the two air-conditioned benches on the midway, and he smiled. He had only one question: “Is there a time limit (for sitting)?”
No, but by noon Monday, there were people waiting.
Sea breeze gave the only relief to spectators on the back nine who followed players practicing for the PGA Championship.
The week won’t get any cooler, and there’s at least a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms each day, according to the National Weather Service, Charleston.
But to catch the breeze, you had to get above the dunes. And if you quit moving, you started sweating.
“It’s not so bad when you’re above the dunes,” said Chris Seibert of Summerville. But he was on his way into the golf shop to buy a new shirt.
“Brutal,” said Alex Stafford of James Island.
The heat already pressed by the time people unloaded from the shuttle buses and covered a few hundred yards to the course. Then they faced “a good little walk,” as one lumbering spectator said.
Along the front nine, people made their way to the cool shade of live oak knolls. Grass stretched broke up the sand paths on most holes. Picnic table “cooling stations” under canopies were set up by concessions off the 8th hole on the front nine and along two holes on the back nine. But only those two benches on the midway were air conditioned, with a maximum seating of about 10.
Tournament organizers tried to place the benches out on the course but couldn’t be sure they would work. Unless you bought a week’s pass to get into the Wannamaker Club, the only air-conditioned tents were the golf shop and a display tent for Mercedes-Benz, the tournament sponsor.
“Only way to go, carry your own shade,” said Linda Hoynes of Atlanta, strolling along under her golf umbrella.
Few complained. The spectators included any number of people who live in the Lowcountry, taking advantage of the more modest practice-day pass fee to get a taste of the international sporting event and the spectacular course in view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Breakers were throwing off white streams. Gulls circled and an occasional egret came swooping in to the marsh. It was a gorgeous summer day.
Along the 7th hole, Kevin Solley kept up a running commentary on the phone to his sister as a foursome with Luke Donald passed.
“It’s an amazing golf course,” he said, and he ought to know. Solley, of Hilton Head, has attended the PGA tournament on that island for 20 years.
“Our tournaments in this area are always warm. We get that,” said Brett Sterba, PGA of America championship director. “But for a warm day in August, I’d rather be at the ocean than anywhere else.”
Besides, it could have been worse. Ask Cole Stokes. The 11-year-old was up from Austin, Texas, to watch with his granddad Buford Boyd of Summerville.
“Pretty good,” he said about this course compared with the ones he plays at home, “because it’s by the beach and it’s cooler weather.”