“One guy wanted to name his cottage on his own, to have it named after (two-time U.S. Open Champion) Curtis Strange. I said Curtis never won The Masters (he finished second in 1985) and besides, you probably don’t want to name it the ‘Strange Cottage.’” Kilmarlic Director of Golf Bryan Sullivan
The life of a golf pro working hard along the coast of North Carolina can be a rich and fulfilling one. One, in particular, has got an 18-hole golf playground designed by Tom Steele at his disposal; a family waterpark within walking distance; a growing number of on-site golf cottages (named after former Masters Champions) for golf and/or beach goers; a health-and-racquet club with an Olympic-sized pool; a sound-side beach in the backyard and much more.
A man responsible for so many amenities needs time to ponder a bit when asked what his life was like before settling in amongst 605 acres of sprawling maritime forest and wetlands in the Northern Outer Banks.
You see, the welcoming face that greets you from out behind the check-in desk at Kilmarlic Golf Club’s golf shop just might be director of golf Bryan Sullivan, a long-time Outer Banks resident who has been the visionary of the facility since its very beginning in 2002. Before that, however, he was a competitive player … a very good competitive player. In fact, he spent a healthy amount of time on the Canadian Tour and competed in nearly a dozen tournaments on the PGA Tour. Prior to that he played college golf at the University of North Carolina and was an All-American teammate of World Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III, who he says “was always so much longer, I just got used to it” when playing alongside him.
Although much of his run on the PGA Tour has blurred with time, he distinctly remembers a few moments from teeing it up there starting with his very first hole in his very first event. It was at the former Anheuser-Busch Championship held at Kingsmill Resort just up the road in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“I remember I birdied the first hole right out of the gate,” he relates. “I started on the back nine on No. 10 and I thought, ‘hey, this is pretty easy.’ I quickly found out the truth of the matter. I had a 20-footer for birdie on my second hole and left the putt short. People in the gallery were yelling ‘you’ve got to get it to the hole.’ I thought, ‘hey give me a break here, this is only my second hole ever and I’m one under!’”
Sullivan’s proudest accomplishment is winning the prestigious North-South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1983 following major champions Hal Sutton and Corey Pavin. But perhaps his most thrilling moment in the sun came during another PGA Tour event since it took place in front a huge crowd, which maybe clouded his judgment, as it turned out, for the good.
“I remember one time at Harbour Town on the 18th hole I hit it left of the green and into the thick stuff and marsh of Calibogue Sound,” he adds. “I remember my caddie telling me to go get the ball and take a drop. I said ‘no way,’ grabbed a wedge and went in there to hit it. I swung as hard as I could, popped it out and holed the darned thing. Everyone went crazy. That was probably my most exciting moment I can remember playing on (the PGA) Tour.”
These days, Sullivan’s biggest pressure consists of ensuring a growing complex of golf cottages inland of OBX continues to be a success. Named after former winners of The Masters tournament including those of the Palmer, Nicklaus, Snead and Hogan Cottages, the first-class accommodations surround their own putting green and feature a chipping/putting course alongside. Their additions have helped increase visitor options looking for accommodations on the mainland.
“It was a big investment,” he says. “But I always felt fairly confident we could get the golf rentals, the big question was the summertime family rentals. As it turns out, those rentals have been a big hit and a big surprise. As I like to tell guests, you can have your toes in the ocean in 10 minutes from here. After the first six cottages were completed and we saw the reaction to them, we knew we had it.”
After his latest home run, Sullivan must feel like he is constantly holing out of Hilton Head’s Calibogue Sound in front of a cheering gallery on a warm spring day.