3-time RBC Heritage champ Cink returns to Harbour Town
He’s played in the RBC Heritage for 22 straight years, but there’s something about Harbour Town Golf Links that keeps Stewart Cink coming back for more. It’s become, in a sense, a home away from home for the now three-time tartan jacket winner, and there was no moment more memorable than his victory last April with his son carrying his bags.
The reigning champ was back in the Lowco to relive some memories on Monday for RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing Media Day, and the tournament officially announced that Cink will return in April to defend his title in front of a full-capacity crowd at Harbour Town.
It’s been a place dear to him since his very first trip down to Hilton Head Island back in 2000, when Cink overcame a four-shot deficit with a sizzling 65 to win the then-MCI Classic. Four years later, he outlasted Ted Purdy in a marathon playoff. But the most unexpected one of them all took a team effort from the people he loved the most.
It was never planned that Reagan Cink would be his father’s go-to caddy, but the pandemic delayed his start date at the Delta Air Lines job he landed after college — and opened the door to working with his dad.
After a family discussion, the Cink team made their debut at the Safeway Open in California — and won. He may have limited experience compared to veterans on the tour, but Reagan gave Stewart something that the others couldn’t: a similar mindset that melded perfectly together on the course. It was a masterclass approach by the duo at the 2021 Heritage, as Team Cink soared to the top of the leaderboard in record-shattering fashion with back-to-back 63s.
The plight of 24-year-old Reagan was as big a story as the return to form of 47-year-old Stewart, and the two combined to produce one of the greatest performances in Heritage history. But they couldn’t have finished the job without the support of another beloved family member.
When Stewart found out that his son Connor was making the trip down for Sunday, he summoned the motivation he needed to play a clean final round and secure his third tartan jacket. The walk down 18 was like no other in his professional career, capping an inspiring journey back to the winners’ circle. It was a team and family effort that inspired the golf world.
Cink won two of his first three PGA Tour events at Harbour Town, but it was more than the victories that captivated him to keep coming back. To Cink, it was the demanding preciseness of Pete Dye’s design on every shot. A far cry from the wide-open fairways of the Old Course at St. Andrew's, success at Harbour Town is defined by accurate ball-striking and careful planning. It’s a course that rewards smart shot-making and punishes any mistakes. Every hole requires a laser-focused mentality, and it’s one that Cink thrived for and displayed in each of his three wins. Even though the fairways and landing areas may be smaller than other stops on tour, Cink routinely performs well here by answering Dye’s high demands and razor-thin margins for error.
But Stewart also knows what really sets the Heritage apart: its fans. The atmosphere at the Heritage feels to him like a tight-knit celebration compared to the crowds in major cities. And after two years of little or limited attendance, the local golf fans will be back at full capacity to witness the island’s marquee event.
The opening ceremony on the Monday of this year’s Heritage week could be one of the most emotional yet, as a golfer who defied the odds and wrote one of the greatest stories of this tournament’s rich history ushers in a return to normalcy and a chance to add another unforgettable chapter.