YOUNG GOLFERS CONNECT WITH THE PROS BY VOLUNTEERING AT HARBOUR TOWN DRIVING RANGE
Every year at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, a group of aspiring young golfers get an opportunity of a lifetime to share the spotlight on
Hilton Head Island’s grandest stage. Local middle- and high school students are given the chance to volunteer on the PGA Tour event’s driving range at Harbour Town Golf Links, connecting with players, caddies, and sponsors along the way while building lasting memories.
“It’s one of the greatest treats for me every year,” Harbour Town head pro John Farrell said.
This spring marks 30 years of Farrell at the helm of the world-famous course, and he’s conducted the program almost every year.
“It’s such a privilege to work here, and if I can share that with young men and women, I’m going to do that every chance I get,” he said.
For the young volunteers and aspiring golfers, it’s a dream come true. The children are tasked with welcoming the Heritage participants, the competitors’ families, and the tournament’s corporate sponsors to the practice facility. Responsibilities include washing, cleaning, and sorting golf balls before delivering them to the driving range for use.
Most importantly, the opportunity teaches life skills while giving youngsters firsthand experience of working in the golf industry.
“They’re representing their families, the resort, the title sponsor, the course, and myself,” Farrell said. “The expectations are clearly defined, and we make them aware that it’s one strike and you’re out. We hire attitude, and we train the rest.”
The young volunteers are expected to perform their duties efficiently from the start. For example, the kids must sort the golf balls by brand and model before transferring the sorted golf balls to the correct golfer. With the COVID-19 pandemic playing a major role in last year’s event, the children’s jobs were an even bigger responsibility. The duties included disinfecting balls and materials along with following the “three W’s” of mask-wearing, hand-washing, and distance-watching.
“We don’t leave anything to chance, we’ve got an international audience watching,” Farrell said.
The program was initiated in 1992 with just three kids and has grown into an indispensable part of the tournament for volunteers, professionals, and the Harbour Town staff alike.
Close to 10 kids are expected to participate this year,
For aspiring golfers like 18-year-old Savannah Hylton, it was an opportunity to learn from the best in the business while meeting her childhood idols.
Hylton, a Hilton Head Island resident, has spent seven years volunteering at the tournament, taking in knowledge from the world’s greatest to help her own game.
After achieving several tremendous accomplishments on the junior circuit, including a victory at a 2018 AJGA All-Star event in Kannapolis, N.C., and becoming the top-ranked junior in South Carolina, she signed this fall with Furman University to continue her golfing and educational careers. Her favorite memories as a volunteer include meeting PGA Tour stars such as Team RBC Ambassador Dustin Johnson, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, and 2021 Players champion Justin Thomas. This year, Hylton will help out for the final time before joining the college ranks.
“I will really miss being out there,” Hylton said. “I made a bunch of friends and will miss all the opportunities it brings and everyone I met.”
For Hylton and so many other youngsters, it’s a chance to learn lifelong skills, meet the game’s superstars, and help put on the greatest golfing weekend of the year in the Lowcountry.