GMac returns to Hilton Head eight years after his mother went AWOL

Bernie McGuire

Graeme McDowell celebrates after the final round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on April 21, 2013 in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Getty Images

It’s eight years since Graeme McDowell found his way to RBC Heritage Classic success but only after the early tournament drama of his mother getting lost at Hilton Head.

McDowell’s 2013 Hilton Head triumph was his first ‘regular’ PGA Tour triumph two years after his US Open success. GMac defeated Webb Simpson in a play-off on the alligator-infested Harbour Town course with Simpson earlier this week firing the ceremonial canon as defending champion, as McDowell had done a year on from his success

On hand to witness McDowell’s victory was not only his parents Kenny and Marion and his future wife, Kristin, but Hilton Head lifeguard, Scott Ohlson.


Seven days prior to McDowell’s win, Ohlson was doing his rounds when he got an urgent radio call that a woman had been missing for three hours.  The woman, McDowell’s mum, had got lost looking to find her son’s rented beach-front dwelling.

Ohlson found her and was informed she had arrived at Hilton Head late on Saturday night, and with it being very dark, the only thing she knew was that her son’s address was a number 38.

Hilton Head is a maze of similar looking streets and it’s not uncommon for even the pros to get lost in trying to find the tournament course or their premises for the week.

“At 10pm, all the lights on Hilton Head are turned off during turtle nesting season, so this probably led to her initial confusion,” said Ohlson. “I had a map of the beach-front home so we drove along the beach, trying to find the right house with a 38 in the address.”

After finding the house and dropping her off, Ohlson then received a call from his manager to advise the woman was McDowell’s mother, and to make sure she had been reunited with the family as the house’s call-back number wasn’t working. Ohlson rushed back to the house and knocked on the door to be greeted by McDowell’s then fiancée, Kristin Stape and then McDowell.

“It took me a second to realise who McDowell was,” said Ohlson. Both expressed their gratitude to Ohlson given the stress McDowell’s mum endured. He had first met her some three miles from the rented house. McDowell then organised full clubhouse tickets for Ohlson along with his father, Ken and mother, Keri and they attended all four days of the event.

Ohlson was also at the back of the 18th green that Sunday to witness McDowell capture his first regular PGA Tour event in defeating fellow US Open winner, Webb Simpson. He was then invited to sit in on McDowell’s post round press conference and afterwards got a photograph with the new RBC Heritage Champion, along with McDowell signing his tournament pass with the words: “Scott.  Thanks for rescuing my mom!  All my best, Graeme McDowell.”

McDowell is joined by fellow Major Champion, Shane Lowry this week, the Offaly man fresh off his best Masters finish of T21 at Augusta. There’s still no word on who’ll be carrying the Open Champion’s bag, however, after his regular caddie, ‘Bo’ Martin returned home to get ahead of new mandatory hotel quarantine regulations in Ireland. And although Lowry will know what to expect in Harbour Town this week, defending champ, Webb Simpson gave a pretty good description of why this particular course suits a tactical approach to the game.

“I’s very much kind of a plotter’s golf course, point A to point B,” said Simpson who won last year’s June renewal at an impressive 22-under par. “You’ve got to really control your ball flight, shot shape, which those things get my excited about. I love thinking through where am I hitting it on this hole and where am I hitting it on this green. That’s kind of the language we speak about every week, or the language we speak in.

“I feel comfortable here even though it’s a tight golf course. It really makes me focus in and kind of zero in on where I’m trying to hit the ball, and the course — I’ve never seen it look this good. It’s firm. It’s going to be very different than what we saw in June. We’re kind of back to what we normally see this time of year with higher winds, firm greens, and I don’t think the scores will be near what we shot in June.”

Irish Tee Times (First Round) Irish time

  • 1.28pm – Graeme McDowell
  • 5.34pm – Shane Lowry


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