2012 the 'Year of Golf' in South Carolina

info@islandpacket.comMarch 24, 2012 

While it might not be official, 2012 certainly seems to be the year of golf for South Carolina as we play host to two PGA events -- the 44th annual RBC Heritage, presented by Boeing, and the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

Combined, these two events will have nearly a $275 million economic impact for the state, while giving us the opportunity to shine on an international stage, not once, but twice this year.

South Carolina supports a $2.7 billion golf industry annually, hosts an annual PGA Tour event and is well known as a premier golf destination with some of the best courses in the country. It might be surprising that a major tournament has never been played in the state.

Major sporting events are usually held in large metropolitan areas, such as Chicago and Atlanta, which boast a tremendous population and corporate base. It is a testament to our state that the PGA took a chance on a non-conventional site with Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

We've shown that not only do we have one of the best courses in the country with the Ocean Course, excellent statewide corporate support and a large enough fan base to host a major tournament, but we also know a thing or two about the business of hospitality. By creating an entirely new accelerated business model for the event, the 2012 PGA Championship is on track to achieve the quickest sellout in PGA history. That says a lot about our very special coast, which is a huge asset to the entire state.

We have an opportunity to bring worldwide focus to the Lowcountry at a very exciting time in golf. The biggest names in the sport -- Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson -- will be competing alongside South Carolina golfers Bill Haas, Dustin Johnson, Jonathan Byrd, Kyle Stanley and Lucas Glover for the opportunity to be called a major champion in just a few short months.

According to a 2010 Clemson economic impact study, the Heritage infuses $82 million into the state and generates more than $1 million for charity each year, while bringing worldwide exposure to Hilton Head Island and the state through media coverage.

Add to that the $193 million economic impact that the College of Charleston's School of Business predicts the PGA Championship will have, bringing 50,000 visitors and more than 154 hours of live network coverage broadcast to more than 570 million households in nearly 200 countries. Our state tourism department could never buy that kind of exposure.

In addition to TV exposure, the 2012 PGA Championship offers a tremendous platform to showcase our wonderful area to companies and executives who might never have personally experienced the Lowcountry. More than 40 percent of the total tickets sold are from outside of South Carolina, representing 44 out of the 50 states. And almost half of corporate hospitality sales have come from outside of the state, everywhere from New York and Pennsylvania to Ohio and Colorado. The more we can generate corporate and tourism interest in the state, the better.

As we learned when Kiawah hosted the Ryder Cup in 1991 and then the Senior PGA Championship in 2007, all of us on the coast will benefit. From Hilton Head to Wilmington, we are collectively known as a golf destination -- one stretch with a couple hundred golf courses. And by having two premier golf events within two hours of each other in the same year, we have the added advantage of extended exposure for the coast.

The timing couldn't be better. August is not normally a peak season for Hilton Head, but the PGA Championship should create a great shoulder season for the area, as well as help generate a busier than usual fall.

We look forward to a great Heritage April 9-15 and encourage you to help support the 2012 PGA Championship on Kiawah Aug. 6-12. If you don't already have tickets, a few are still available for the Heritage and the early days of the PGA Championship, Monday through Thursday. These are two events you will not want to miss.

Whether you attend with friends, family or clients, we hope you take full advantage of the opportunities and help us continue to show that South Carolina truly is the best golf destination in the world.

David Tigges is CEO of the McNair Law Firm and serves on the executive committee of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and the board of the Heritage Classic Foundation. Roger Warren is the 2012 PGA Championship general chairman and president of Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

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