Inside one of the most coveted tournaments on the PGA tour.
By Bill Bauer
One could say that The King, a.k.a. Arnold Palmer, began a tradition nearly 50 years ago when he won the first Heritage Classic Golf Tournament in 1969 at Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Little did anyone know that as golf tournaments come and go, and nearly all now carry the name of a financial partner, that the Heritage would still be one of the most coveted tournaments on the PGA Tour. After suffering through one year without a sponsor back in 2011, the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament is alive and well and recently sealed the deal with title sponsor Royal Bank of Canada and presenting sponsor Boeing for another five years.
The Heritage Classic Foundation, a non-profit that supports over 80 charities, in partnership with RBC and Boeing, just completed another successful golf tournament. Following The Masters, the RBC Heritage has turned into not only a FedExCup point getter, but an eagerly anticipated destination event for those who enjoy the grand old game, set in the laid back atmosphere that permeates the Sea Pines Plantation and the historic Harbour Town setting.
A fine cast of golfers, several from South Carolina, combined with sunny skies and temperatures hovering above par to bring thousands to the Heritage to enjoy pro-ams and practice rounds, plus of course the tournament, on a golf course that’s simply magnificent. For an island Hurricane Matthew battered last fall, Hilton Head, along with Sea Pines and Harbour Town, showed little or no sign of the storm’s devastation. In fact, many who have played or walked the golf course in the past observed new sight lines from tee to green and a movement of air that was non-existent before the removal of hundreds of downed trees within Sea Pines.
Changes were aplenty at the RBC Heritage, all designed to enhance the golf tournament experience. At the Heritage it’s all about good old-fashioned southern hospitality. “We strive every year to improve the event and make the Heritage more of a destination for our guests,” said Derek Paton, vice president of sales and marketing for the HCF. “It’s all about the charities and we have been blessed with great partners who continue to help us succeed,” he said, standing near the newest addition to this year’s event.
Conveniently located just out the door from the air-conditioned merchandise building at one end, and a food and beverage concession tent at the other, was the Wine@Nine Experience. Wine barrel tables complete with sun-shielding umbrellas and high bar stools were perched throughout a promenade sandwiched between holes 1 and 9, where one of the three large-screen monitors on the course provided live coverage of the tournament. A fine wine assortment of Ruffino Proseco from the heart of Tuscany, and from coastal California, Meiomi Chardonnay and Dry Rose, and Simi Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc were uncorked and poured. Jenny Crouse, representing the California wineries, thought Wine@Nine was a huge success: “This is fantastic,” she said. “A lot of people are familiar with our Pinot Noir. It’s sort of Meiomi’s flagship but the Chardonnay is kind of like a hidden gem and with this hot weather it is going over very well.” The cool, crisp whites were indeed a big hit and gained popularity as the afternoon temperatures climbed.
On the back nine, Tito’s Stillhouse Lounge offered concoctions created with Tito’s famous American-made Vodka. “Tito is committed to giving back and has been known to say that he plans ‘to change the world through the eyes of vodka,’ according to Chrystal Barley, the Tito’s representative who hosted the event at the RBC Heritage. “We are extremely charity driven and decided to become a player in this event to help the local community and the state of South Carolina. It’s not just all about playing golf and drinking cocktails. We believe in the charities that the HCF supports.”
Golfers are well aware of the 19th hole where they usually head to gather after a round. At Harbour Town, the HFC had its own 19th Hole, sponsored by Anheuser Busch and located just beyond the 18th green’s grandstand and across the marina from Harbour Town’s signature lighthouse as well as the countless onlookers sitting in their yachts in Calibogue Sound. Guests strolled along the Heritage Lawn leading to the 19th Hole where indoor and outdoor seating and the 3rd big screen television kept them abreast of the action.
Two dedicated entrances, at the 1st and 18th holes, a host of food and beverage concession stands serving Clos du Bois wines and Anheuser Busch products, and an avenue of vendors, and the RBC Heritage created, as Derek Paton called it, “a unique destination for adults and families alike. It’s coming to see great golf in a relaxing atmosphere and making it an experience.” The RBC Heritage Tournament joins other PGA events where guests are quickly discovering that they can attend a golf tournament without marching up and down fairways among hordes of fans, thanks to the many partners that get involved and make a tournament a happening.
From the tollbooth on the parkway to the signs at Harbour Town, visitors are urged to “Get Your Plaid On,” and it was evident many had paid attention as the black and red plaid that has become synonymous with the Heritage was abundant. PGA Tour rookie Wesley Bryan got his plaid on as he donned the traditional tartan plaid jacket placed upon the tournament winner. Bryan just happens to hail from Columbia, S.C., and fans from all over the state hung tight during Sunday’s final round and watched University of South Carolina 2012 graduate Wesley Bryan sink the winning putt. It just doesn’t get any finer…in South Carolina! See y’all next year!
– Photos by Bill Bauer
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