I have a confession to make. I have been attending the Heritage golf tournament for 20 years and I might be able to count the number of times I’ve seen a ball arc through the air on one hand. (As for counting the number of cocktails I’ve had at the tournament, well, let’s just say I would need more hands.) I’m fairly certain I’m not alone on this one. After all, the Heritage has a longstanding reputation for being a “see and be seen” grandstanding event.
Not that far removed from an unsure future without a sponsor and the brief loss of its longtime spot on the PGA Tour calendar following the Masters, the current climate around the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing can only be described in glowing terms.
For the 48th year, all local eyes turn to the RBC Heritage golf tournament
Once again, Hilton Head Island will be riding a little lower the third week of April as more than 100,000 people flock to the south end of the island for the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, held at Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort.
For 48 years, the tournament has been the party of the year, drawing locals and visitors from around the country to the nicest, friendliest tournament on the tour, played on one of its quirkiest courses.
PHOTO BY ARNO DIMMLING / 2014 RBC Heritage champion Matt Kuchar begins last year's tournament week with the ceremonial tee shot into Calibogue Sound.
The dates were Nov. 27-30, 1969, Thanksgiving weekend, and innovative Sea Pines designer Charles Fraser gave the first tournament on the newly created Harbour Town Golf Links a traditional twist by calling it the "Heritage Classic.” Back then, nearly everyone had to reach for a map to discover Hilton Head’s whereabouts. Would anyone show up on Thanksgiving weekend, especially to a remote, unknown spot? And would the world’s top golfers want to be challenged by a new, unfamiliar course? Still, the best in the game came.
A look the men and women who put together the Lowcountry’s biggest event...
CURRENT TOWN: Hilton Head Island
HOMETOWN: Salamanca, New York
WHAT HE DOES: I oversee the day-to-day operations of ticket sales and work closely with Morgan Hyde on the coordination of the set up and tear down of the tournament site — skybox, bleachers, tents and restrooms, etc.
FAVORITE HERITAGE MEMORY: The 2013 playoff between Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson, with Graeme McDowell coming out on top.
Since its inception in 1969, the RBC Heritage golf tournament has attracted some of the biggest names in professional golf, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Payne Stewart, Boo Weekley and Jim Furyk, who have all won the tournament at some point. While the spotlight is, understandably, focused on the pro golfers who compete in the tournament, far less attention is paid to the well-coordinated army of volunteers who help the Heritage go off without a hitch — many of whom return to volunteer year after year. Committed volunteers are absolutely essential to a golf tournament like the Heritage, which is held over a weeklong period and boasts a number of critical events, from the opening ceremony to the pro-ams to the tournament itself.
Held at the famed Harbour Town Golf Links, the Pro-Am is one of the most anticipated events leading up to the annual RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. Not only do amateur golf enthusiasts get the chance to play alongside some of the most recognizable names in professional golf, but the entry fees for the event help fund the Heritage Classic Foundation's community charity programs. The opportunity to rub shoulders with favorite pro golfers, as well as support worthy local charities, keep players coming back year after year, making spots in the Pro-Am quick to sell out.
In 1969, the nation was introduced to Hilton Head as the media celebrated Arnold Palmer’s first big win in 14 months. The Harbour Town golf course, designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nichlaus, along with signature Charles Fraser elements like the then partially built Harbour Town Lighthouse set a standard for Hilton Head’s renown aesthetic, as well as what golf enthusiasts and happy Heritage partygoers alike would come to expect from this event, now attended by more than 100,000 people. “We try to make it better and better each year,” said Angela McSwain, marketing director for the Heritage Classic Foundation. “And a big part of that is the landscaping.”