Packet Sea Foam: Tourney thanks longtime sponsor

August 29, 2011 

Thanks to Cary Griffin for sharing insight into Greenwood Appreciation Day at the Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament this weekend.

Cary has been a Hilton Head Island resident since 1974 and was a founding member of the celebrity golf tournament in 1979. He is a shareholder in the McNair Law Firm, and formerly was one of the founding partners of the law firm of Bethea Jordan & Griffin, which merged into McNair in 2004.

He and his wife, Eileen, moved here from Washington, D.C., to join Bill Bethea and Michael Jordan. He and Eileen raised two daughters, Jennifer and Colleen, who together have now produced five grandchildren, all of whom reside in Charleston.

GREENWOOD APPRECIATION

By Cary S. Griffin

The council of trustees of the Celebrity Golf Foundation has designated this Friday as "Greenwood Appreciation Day."

People have asked me, "Why now? It seems like an odd time, this being your 32nd tournament." The answer to that is not particularly a simple one; but, first and foremost, "It's about time!"

Second, and most importantly, the Celebrity Golf Tournament would never be where it is today without the involvement of Greenwood Communities and Resorts (formerly known as Greenwood Development Corporation).

A few months back, when our council started discussing all that Greenwood has done for us over our 30-plus years of history, it became readily apparent that Greenwood was likely the sole corporate sponsor still under the same ownership that has continuously supported our event since inception -- each and every year of the tournament's existence.

"Support" comes in many different flavors, particularly when it pertains to the Celebrity Golf Tournament. Greenwood has provided one of its golf courses each year. In addition, Greenwood has provided much-needed funding, office space, storage space, officers and employees to serve on our council (to name a few, Chuck Pigg, Furman Self, Chip Pellerin, Brett Borton, Brad Marra) but, most importantly, their friendship and protective arm placed on our shoulders has always been there.

I still recall, with some clarity, the initial planning that went into our inaugural event in November 1979.

The idea for the tournament germinated at the end of 1978 when our small group of Hilton Head Island Jaycees decided to make this the project to end all Jaycee projects -- "Why not have a national golf tournament on Hilton Head?"

"Great idea," it was said. "Let's make it a charitable event," another great idea. So, from that idea, we spent time courting the U.S. Jaycees out of Tulsa, Okla., the Muscular Dystrophy Association (with help from Lois West) and, heaven knows, anyone else we could court to get it off the ground.

We were fortunate enough to have Harbour Town committed to us that first year, which lent the national focus. We also received the help of the MDA and the U.S. Jaycees.

But when it came down to the finances, sometime in the late summer of '79 we realized there was significantly more outflow than inflow of dollars.

Greenwood had already agreed to be a sponsor. I was nominated by my good Jaycee buddies to make the contact with Greenwood to tell them the financial difficulties we were experiencing. I did so with trepidation.

However, on the other end of the phone was John Davis, president of Greenwood, and a financial guru as well. He knew a lot more about budgets that I would ever know. I don't remember John's exact words because I was likely too nervous (as well as excited), but the message was clear and unequivocal: "Don't worry. We know that you are working hard and doing a good thing for Hilton Head. We will back any losses that you suffer."

STAR POWER

We had PGA Tour golfers Jim Dent and Morris Hatalsky. Fred MacMurray (of "My Three Sons") joined us, and we almost killed him with the 40-degree temperature at Harbour Town that November.

I still don't know how this happened, but two of our celebrities were the producer, Fred deCordova, and the director, Bobby Quinn, of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Those two gentlemen loved our inaugural event, came back for years and proved to be wonderful liaisons for celebrities in the future. Fred deCordova served as an adviser for our event for a number of years and liked to refer to us as "the Masters of Celebrity Golf Tournaments." He also told us to chill on glassware as tournament mementos -- "too bulky for the plane ride home."

So, we went on from there and have grown, changed, focused and re-focused and survived all these years.

All tournament proceeds are now distributed locally to youth-oriented beneficiaries. This year's tournament marks a little bit of re-inventing ourselves insofar as the format, logo, course makeup, etc. We have a new and invigorated council of trustees, including chef Robert Irvine (who does most of the invigorating).

THE SELF FAMILY

Greenwood's generosity has not only benefited our tournament, but has been a boon to Hilton Head Island and the Lowcountry in general in many other ways.

That includes significant land contributions (and I know because I helped prepare the deeds). These land donations include the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina (formerly the Self Family Arts Center), the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce building, Christ Lutheran Church, Hilton Head Hospital, the Palmetto Dunes fire station, certain lands around the airport and the list goes on.

Greenwood is a family owned entity and, basically, started with James C. Self, who, in 1908 at the age of 31, took over the debt-ridden Greenwood Cotton Mill. He turned that business around and, as part of that turnaround, kept the cities of Greenwood and Ninety Six in fairly sound financial position, even weathering the Great Depression and doing quite well in the 1930s.

In 1942, Self created the Self Family Foundation, primarily to build a hospital for Greenwood residents. Self Memorial Hospital was dedicated in 1951 and today is considered one of the finest hospitals in South Carolina.

His son, James C. Self Jr. ("Jim"), expanded the Greenwood Mills Co. to include a number of affiliated entities, including Greenwood Development Corp. He also greatly expanded the scope of the foundation, which has grown and, as of a few years ago, had made donations in excess of $60 million, principally within South Carolina.

It was also Jim Self who started the relationship of Greenwood with Hilton Head Island. As early as 1959, he was a major investor in one of the first projects for the island, and Greenwood Mills' construction department helped build the island's first golf course, what is now the Ocean Course in Sea Pines. Formed in 1978, Greenwood Development Corp., in the following year, acquired all of the amenities as well as the remaining developable property in Palmetto Dunes Resort.

Today, many of the third and fourth generations of the Self family are involved in the company's businesses and the foundation and the relationship of Greenwood and the Self family to Hilton Head is as strong as it has ever been.

Just prior to teeing off on Friday, we will have a short ceremony, hosted by sports commentator Jim Huber at the Robert Trent Jones course, to commemorate Greenwood Appreciation Day.

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