When golfers arrive at True Blue, one of the first things they see upon entering the pro shop are … football helmets?
That’s right. Don’t come to True Blue looking for a picture of Ben Hogan stripping a one iron.
While there was never any intention to bring a sports theme to the True Blue clubhouse, life is funny sometimes.
When True Blue opened in 1998, a couple University North Carolina boosters sent a Tar Heel football helmet to the course’s owners as a thank you for hosting them. With nothing else to do with the helmet, ownership displayed it in the clubhouse.
A week later, a NC State alum played and loved the course but couldn’t stand the idea of UNC being placed on a pedestal. A Wolfpack helmet was soon on its way to Pawleys Island and the sports takeover of the True Blue clubhouse was officially underway.
One of the course’s owners, the late Doc Lachicotte, was a former football player and booster at Clemson, so naturally the Tigers were soon represented with the University of South Carolina following shortly afterwards.
In total, there are more than 40 helmets on display but there is no rhyme or reason to the showcased schools. The ACC and SEC schools make sense, but people are surprised to see Nebraska (signed by former coach Frank Solich) and Colorado, among other schools from west of the Mississippi.
Most golfers are motivated by making sure a rival isn’t somehow on display at the expense of their alma mater and will send a helmet (shout out to Colorado State!).
Most of the helmets were added in True Blue’s first decade but as recently as last year, a Mountaineer sent a West Virginia lid for display. These days, it’s more likely an athlete will come to play and sign memorabilia from his alma mater.
Tom Brady even signed a mini–New England Patriots helmet after a round, but the most memorable athlete visit for Bart Romano, the Director of Golf Operations at True Blue and Caledonia, came from a former linebacker most people no longer remember.
A Pennsylvania native, Romano grew up a huge Penn State fan and still vividly recalls the team’s famed 14-10 win against the University of Miami in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, a triumph that earned the Nittany Lions a national title. The star of the game was All-American linebacker Shane Conlan, who intercepted two passes, returning one to the Hurricanes five-yard line to set up the decisive touchdown.
The only problem was the young Romano had run afoul of household rules and his mother wouldn’t let him watch the game.
“He showed up to play and was checking in and his name was on the tee time,” Romano recalled with a laugh. “I said, ‘Are you the Shane Conlan that played for the Buffalo Bills?’ He just laughed and said, ‘You remember that?’ and I told him my story about the National Championship game.”
Conlan graciously signed the Penn State helmet, adding another name to True Blue’s athletics wall of fame.
Great golf is at the heart of the True Blue experience, but the course’s sports memorabilia collection is always a popular topic of conversation.