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  • At PGA, it's gators, snakes and bugs, oh my

  • Players in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course have more than weather and length to contend with.
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  • Players in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course have more than weather and length to contend with.
    They also have "these nice little creatures," as Medford resident and golfer Bill Heslington likes to refer to the alligators and venomous water moccasin snakes of the area.
    Heslington lived on the South Carolina island for seven years, ending in 2004, and oversaw marshals at The Ocean Course. He and his wife, Lane, had a home built and moved from Orange County in California upon his retirement from a title insurance company.
    They moved from there to Bend, then to the Rogue Valley two years ago.
    Heslington has been in front of the TV enjoying seeing his stomping grounds. He worked several big tournaments, including World Cup championships in 1997 and 2003, and remembers an encounter with Miguel Angel Jimenez and another creature: the pesky "No-see-um" bugs. They're 90 percent teeth, joked Heslington, so both annoying and painful.
    As Heslington was buzzing around the course in 2003, Jimenez waved him over on the sixth hole and asked if he had bug repellent. The marshal zoomed away and returned, handing the Spaniard a spray can.
    "He asked if it really worked," says Heslington.
    "I told him sure, just spray it on your arms, raise them in the in air, and when the bugs cover your arm, start smacking them."
    Jimenez looked at him quizzically, then laughed uproariously.
    The next day, Jimenez called him over and said the bug spray really worked. Heslington's reply? Don't kid a kidder.
    The course this week is set up for more than 7,600 yards, the longest in major championship history.
    Heslington and friends didn't play it like that.
    "If you played the regular member tees, it didn't play exceptionally long," he says. "But it was demanding because if you didn't hit the fairways, you were in trouble with lagoons or waste bunkers."
    And two-thirds of the holes require a lot of carry off the tee, he says.
    When he marshaled, guests were encouraged to play from up tees if their handicaps were in double digits. More than a few balked.
    "Eight out of 10, we'd catch them four or five tees later and they'd be on the whites (or forward)," says Heslington. "They couldn't carry the waste areas unless they killed a drive 235 yards in the air to get to the mowed grass. They would sheepishly and politely move themselves up."
    And that was with the still-looming 17th, a par 3 that this week is 230-some yards over water.
    "It's unbelievable," says Heslington.
    He's no stranger to the wacky weather players are experiencing. The course website says the wind can cause an eight-club difference in some cases.
    "The weather can turn very quickly," says Heslington. "The Ocean Course, for all practical purposes, is wide open. The wind can literally blow you off the course."
    While watching on TV, he says, nothing beats seeing holes he's played "many, many times "… but they're on tees 90 yards back from where I hit and they're 90 yards past where my ball was."
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    STONE RIDGE HEAD PRO Scott Lusk is featured in the "Backspin" section of the August edition of Pacific Northwest Golfer, and he shares thoughts on the game — notably, a wild story about visitors to Cedar Links when he worked at the then-18-hole course in east Medford.
    Under the category, "The strangest thing I've ever seen on a golf course is ...," Lusk wrote:
    "Lots of strange things, but one of my favorites was the family setting up for a picnic on our 10th hole ... They had no clue why that was a bad idea."
    The family took over the middle of the fairway, about 210 yards from tee, Lusk later said. Kids ran around and watched ducks on a nearby pond as Mom and Dad relaxed. Lusk eventually shooed them away despite their protests, much as Ranger Smith often did to Yogi and Boo-Boo.
    On other topics, Lusk offered:
    It should be legal to ... "Do away with the stroke and distance penalty for out of bounds shots and play them as lateral hazards."
    It should be illegal to ... "Come to the course on a weekend as a twosome, not want to pair up and expect to play through all the foursomes."
    His dream foursome would include ... "Jack Nicklaus, Joe Montana and Willie Nelson."
    He would never wear on a course ... "A tank top, sandals with socks, fly-fishing hat and suspenders."
    The regular magazine feature is a Q&A with four people.
    u
    TWO MAJOR LOCAL tournaments are just around the corner, so if you're interested in signing up for the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships at Centennial or the Southern Oregon Golf Championships at Rogue Valley Country Club, now's the time.
    The RVSP, also considered the city championships, are Aug. 25-26 and includes men's, senior men's, super senior men's and women's divisions.
    The age limit was lowered to 16 from 18 this year, keeping in step with the SOGC and allowing in top young talent.
    "We want those kids who are good enough players to have a chance to win it," says Chris Daggitt, Centennial tournament director. "There's no reason they shouldn't."
    The entry deadline is Friday. Sign-ups can be done online at www.centennialgolfclub.com or by calling the pro shop at 541-773-4653.
    Registration for the SOGC, the largest single-site match-play tournament in the country, can also be done online at rvcc.com or by calling 541-772-4050. The tournament is Aug. 28 to Sept. 3.
    There are men's divisions for regular, junior-senior, senior and super senior. For women, it's regular and senior.
    As of Thursday, sign-ups were coming in at faster pace than in recent years. Fifty-two of the 384 spots were available, including 41 in the men's and junior-senior men's divisions. A couple divisions had filled and others are close.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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