Ongoing Heritage success a great testament to area

newsroom@islandpacket.comApril 21, 2014 

Tom Watson, signs autographs after finishing the 18th hole during the Pro-Am during the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing on April 16, 2014.

THEOPHIL SYSLO — Staff photo Buy Photo

It was a little soggy. Security slowed entrance into the tournament. And there was a surprise need for off-site parking to deal with flooded grass lots within Sea Pines.

But this year's RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing represents a level of success that seemed nearly impossible just a few years ago. The Hilton Head community has plenty of reasons to feel proud about this year's tournament -- and optimistic about future ones.

It was just four years ago that Verizon decided to end its long-held sponsorship of the tournament, leaving some to wonder if it meant the end for the annual tradition and its family-friendly atmosphere that attracted about 100,000 locals and visitors.

The challenges were huge, including a struggling economy that had would-be sponsors running scared and aging facilities at Sea Pines that weren't inviting to guests and golfers.

Some quietly wondered whether Hilton Head might lose its signature event as it had lost the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament to Daniel Island in 2001.

Stressed tournament organizers, unable to find a title sponsor for the 2011 event, relied on cash they had squirreled away and government money to put the event on.

That seems like another world compared to this year's event. RBC, Canada's largest bank and one of the largest banks in the world, served as title sponsor. Boeing, a leading aerospace company that operates the Space Shuttle and International Space Station, was the presenting sponsor. The two are scheduled to continue in their respective roles until 2016.

No yachts were turned away this year thanks to the timely completion of the yacht basin dredging project. About 100 boats were docked in the basin Friday. A group of boat-slip owners and Sea Pines residents funded the project, meaning taxpayers did not have to pitch in.

And Sea Pines is getting much-needed upgrades. Under the ownership of Riverstone Group, the resort community has undergone more than $50 million in renovations in the last few years including $15 million to replace the Plantation Club.

Now underway is work to tear down and replace the Harbour Town Clubhouse, which opened just in time for the first Heritage in 1969. The $20 million-plus replacement clubhouse will include more lockers, a steam room and other top-notch amenities that the PGA Tour golfers are accustomed to at other tour stops. It's scheduled to open in time for next year's tournament.

Meanwhile, the purse just keeps getting larger. This year's $5.8 million purse (about $1 million of which went to winner Matt Kuchar) is eight times greater than it was in 1988. And it's bigger than the combined payouts for the tournament's first 19 years.

Congratulations to tournament organizers and the community for an amazing comeback. We're certain many more successful tournaments are in the future -- but hopefully not so much rain.

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service