Almost like the release of a new iPhone, hoards of golfers lie in wait for Pro-Am tournament packages to go on sale for the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. There are more than 300 spots, but in essence some reserved their place in line years ago because corporate partners and longtime Pro-Am players get first rights of refusal.
“We have one person who is playing his 49th Pro-Am,” said Derek Paton, vice president of sales and marketing for the Heritage Classic Foundation. “There isn’t room for many new players.”
Over the years, organizers added a second, then a third Pro-Am. Short of adding floodlights for nighttime rounds, they ran out of daylight on the days they didn’t need Harbour Town Golf Links for the tournament itself.
Organizers, working with PGA Tour officials, came up with a great idea: Host a Pro-Am at the brand-new Atlantic Dunes designed by none other than the winningest Heritage player ever: Davis Love III. Love has five (five!!) tartan jackets.
The event lets more people play with PGA Tour pros, shines a spotlight on the stunning redesign of the Ocean Course and honors Heritage champion and course designer Love. It’s a triple crown, a hat trick, a triple play of golf.
“What we’ve tried to create, based on supply and demand, is an exclusive experience with a PGA Tour professional,” Paton said. “We didn’t want a corporate event.”
Tom Reilley, chairman of the tournament’s Pro-Am committee, said they worked hard to make sure the event would be on par with those at Harbour Town.
“The top 42 on the money list at the event play at Harbour Town,” Reilley said. “The other 90 PGA Tour pros are looking to play a round for practice. Why not at a PGA Tour-sanctioned event? Otherwise, they have to find another place to play, anyway.”
Paton said Pro-Am tournaments are unique sporting events.
“You’ll have those stories to tell about standing beside a PGA Tour pro inside the ropes and playing a round with them,” he said. “It’s the best way to appreciate their skill. It is a fine art. You’ll hit your second shot from where the pro does. It’s a different perspective.
“I’m from Toronto and I love hockey, but I can’t get on the ice with my favorite players. I don’t want to play football with my favorite linebacker. Golf is unique in that way. You can play with your favorite golfer. It’s indescribable.”
The Atlantic Dunes Pro-Am will be a shotgun start and limited to 20 teams, each with four amateur players paired with the PGA Tour player.
“It’s the first year, so we wanted to start small and make sure everyone has a great time,” Paton said. “At Harbour Town, there is this sense of a big event. There are spectators and official PGA TOUR scorers. At Atlantic Dunes, it will be more intimate. I imagine the PGA Tour pros will feel like they can let their hair down a bit more.”
Paton said players will enjoy the remade course. It follows the same track as Sea Pines Ocean Course, but that’s where the similarities end. Love pulled sand along the sides of wide fairways to remind players the ocean is just a few long-iron shots away. He also ringed sand around the enormous, perfectly groomed greens and reversed the elevation on the iconic 15th par 3. Now, the green is raised so one can enjoy the gorgeous view while putting out.
“Sea Pines and Davis Love III have done an incredible renovation,” Paton said.
The event also provides more revenue for the tournament. “Costs are rising,” Paton said. “We will be able to give more to local charities.”
The package includes breakfast, an after-play reception, a gift package, shopping spree and tickets to the RBC Heritage.
And stories you’ll tell for years.
The Atlantic Dunes Pro-Am
will be the fourth PGA Tour-sanctioned Pro-Am at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.
Monday, April 10
Pro-Am Presented by Boeing, Harbour Town Golf Links
Wednesday, April 12
RBC Heritage Pro-Am, morning and afternoon rounds, Harbour Town Golf Links
RBC Heritage Pro-Am, morning round, Atlantic Dunes
For tickets and more information, go to www.rbcheritage.com.