The secret hero of Sea Island is a Canadian woman who makes incredible snack mix
Susie Donnelly is a volunteer at the RSM Classic who has become a legend among players and staff for her homemade snack.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — The best kind of diet is the one that starts next week, and I was very glad that I am currently dieting in exactly that manner when Amanda Herrington, Director of Communications at the PGA Tour, wandered by my desk in the media center at Sea Island holding a cup of a snack mix called “Nuts and Bolts.” I expressed mild interest (read: I love snacks and desperately wanted to try it), and a moment later I held in my hand a pretzel rod. The experience of eating it goes beyond explanation: a perfect blend of butter, garlic salt, celery salt, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce, with the pretzel baked to a perfect crunch.
Little did I know that I was partaking of a Sea Island tradition, a media-room legend and a delicacy beloved of no less a local eminence than the Uncle and tournament host himself, Davis Love III.
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Susie Donnelly lives in the prairies of Alberta, Canada, in a place called Red Deer, and before she retired, she worked for the Canadian government in the Integrity Services Branch. Her sister, Barbara Van Buskirk, lives on St. Simons Island and has been volunteering at the RSM Classic since the tournament began in 2010. And she's not just any volunteer—she was the PGA Tour Volunteer of the Year in 2020. Van Buskirk invited her sister to join her as a volunteer in 2011, and when Donnelly came down, it was only natural for her to whip up a batch of Nuts and Bolts for both. (If you're curious about the name, the nuts are … well, the nuts, and maybe the cheerios too, and the bolts are the pretzels.) She's been coming back ever since.
Growing up in Red Deer, Nuts and Bolts was a Christmas tradition for the sisters, and Donnelly would make it each year with her father. She makes two varieties, and though the ranch-flavored kind hasn't yet made its Sea Island debut—mostly because Donnelly doesn't want to invent more work for herself—the original version spread like wildfire. It started when her sister brought some to the tournament to share with her fellow volunteers and tournament staff. It became so popular, so quickly, that the raves eventually reached Davis Love III—he calls it "chex mix," and he rarely goes a day of tournament week without indulging.
"I'm supposed to be eating less salt," Love said. "So I was telling my daughter, 'I could make it like this, or this, or this' and she said, 'then why do you go in every day and eat a cup of hers?'
"I'm kind of addicted to it," he admitted.
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The addiction is so strong that when Donnelly couldn't come down in 2020 due to border restrictions during COVID, Love felt disappointed enough that he took it on himself to make his own batch for everyone. It became a family project, involving his wife and grandkids.
"We didn't make it as well as she did," Love said, "but we made it.”
Without giving away the exact recipe, Donnelly revealed the basics: the spices mentioned above, mixed with butter, spread over a snack mix that includes Wheat Chex, Corn Chex, peanuts, cashews, almonds, pretzels, Cheerios, Bugles and whatever else strikes her fancy (including a Canadian cereal called "Shreddies" that has to be left out of the American version). Combine it all, bake at 250 degrees for two hours, stirring every 30 minutes, and voila: Nuts and Bolts.
This year, a special crisis arose when there appeared to be a Bugles shortage in the grocery stores in the barrier islands. Love was alerted by Donnelly prior to the tournament and vowed to keep his eyes peeled. Eventually, Bugles were found—I can verify that they made the final mix—and order was restored.
"Here's the thing with the Nuts and Bolts," Herrington said. "You can go buy a bag of Chex Mix, but the care and special ingredients and seasonings that go into this, where it's perfectly salty, perfectly crunchy … only someone who knows the formula, passed from generation to generation, can make a perfect mix like this that tastes so homemade."
Every day during tournament week, the staff of the Davis Love Foundation gets their own bag. Those bags are then routinely pilfered by various PGA Tour staffers and the occasional bold journalists. Melanie Trotter, the tournament director, is one of the daily beneficiaries, and her appreciation for Donnelly and Van Buskirk goes beyond snacks.
"The sisters are so special," Trotter said. "It doesn't matter what you ask, they always say 'yes.' They are the perfect example of the southern hospitality that we want to extend to every person that comes to our event."
And who better to exemplify that southern hospitality than a Canadian? When you can make a snack this good, you'll be embraced anywhere.