Creature in water grabs attention of fans and golfers at Kiawah Wednesday

View from just left of the tee box on 17 at Ocean Course

By Mike

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) - There's a lot to grab your attention at the 17th hole on Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, home of the 2012 PGA Championship this week.

For golf fans, it may be the deep bunkers situated to the left and massive water hazard to the right stretching three quarters the length of the hole, which together makes a challenging 223-yard par 3.

The beautiful view of the Atlantic, stretching along the right side of the hole goes without saying. But Wednesday at Ocean Course, it was a floating creature in that water hazard that seemed to catch the attention of both the fans and golfers.

"You'd think golfers playing in warm climates would see alligators a lot," said Director of Outdoor Programs at Kiawah Golf Resorts Elisabeth King. "I was surprised how many were taking pictures!"

A Wednesday afternoon practice group including Wofford College grad William McGirt stopped on their walk to the 17th green, about 120 yards from the pin, to snap pictures of the gator.

According to Elisabeth King, Kiawah Island is home to 600 alligators, and the design of the Ocean course is actually very conducive to wildlife inhabitance.

"The way they designed this course with thick vegetation keeps the wildlife here," said King as she pointed to heavy brush on the edge of the water, next to the green.

As many as three gators, seven to eight feet in length, could be seen hovering the surface in the water on 17 during Wednesday's practice round - A sight that isn't too common in the August heat.

"This rain is really unusual. It cools it off, so the gators are more active in the middle of the day," she said.

As talk about alligators in the water hit the ears of 2008 PGA Champion Padraig Harrington on his walk to the 17th green, he turned and watched the creature's head peak out of the water.

Put fear aside. King says the alligators shouldn't be of any concern to players or fans.

"I don't expect them to come out of the water," she says. "They're curious when a ball lands. Other than that, they don't show much interest in the gallery."

King says the water is the gator's safe-zone and that is where it likes to stay.

Four holes at the Ocean Course have visible water hazards where gators might inhabit. It also happens to be alligator hatching season, and Kiawah's Ocean Course has one nest in a pond, somewhere on the front nine holes.

King insisted she keep information of its whereabouts vague, but assured it was far away from anywhere fans or players might wander.

So if you're fortunate enough to make it out to the Ocean Course sometime this week, you can expect a great view and a chance to see critical shots in the 2012 PGA Championship from the 17th hole.

You might even see one of the gators, which have made Kiawah Island and the 17th hole of Ocean Course home.