Cooperation brings order to a challenging situation

Parking, course preparation managed to shine when rain deluged RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

newsroom@islandpacket.comApril 27, 2014 

Before the Heritage Classic Foundation gets too busy planning next year's RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, some extraordinary actions in the 2014 edition deserve notice.

Major obstacles to a smooth tournament came pouring down with the rain. The obstacles had to be dealt with quickly and efficiently on the fly, and the tournament staff and community were up to the task.

Throughout the week of the tournament, which ended on a pretty day Sunday with Matt Kuchar's exciting sand shot on the 18th green, the Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines received 3.9 inches of rain.

It started on Tuesday, when almost an inch fell. For the most part, that was the best day for rain because it dodged both the Monday and Wednesday pro-ams that are so important to the income, fun and spirit of the tournament. Tuesday's rain washed out an important day for the PGA Tour players to practice. But more quietly, it brought on the first of the parking problems that would become a greater challenge on Friday. Tuesday's rain rendered most of the 650-spot parking lot beside the Lawton Stables unusable.

On Friday, the deluge came. Play was suspended at about 3 p.m. Before dawn another 2.7 inches of rain soaked into the low-lying southern tip of the island.

That's when the challenges became much greater than maneuvering a golf ball through a stiff Calibogue Sound wind. That's when chaos could have ensued.

Fortunately, it also is when a number of people and institutions rose to the occasion. The tournament finished without incident and actually a little early for the CBS Sports programmers, beaming the Lowcountry's beauty into 224 countries and territories.

When darkness fell on Friday, fairways looked like lagoons. Yet, the PGA Tour said play would start at 8 a.m. Saturday, and it did. Credit is due to golf course superintendent Jonathan Wright and his staff. It is telling that the heroics of the tournament took place in a bunker, traditionally the greatest challenge to course superintendents after torrential rain.

Parking presented a logistical puzzle that had to be put together quickly. It was obvious that the grass and dirt general parking lots totaling some 3,000 spaces would be unavailable to fans on Saturday and Sunday. Cars, and even buses, were getting stuck in the mud.

Steve Wilmot, the tournament director and chief operating officer, said cooperation was needed to pull together an alternative. And he got it. Tournament officials worked with the Town of Hilton Head Island, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, the Beaufort County School District, the S.C. Highway Patrol, the Coastal Discovery Museum and others to explore options and execute a plan.

By 7 a.m. Saturday, a new parking plan went live with no rehearsal. Key tournament contractors, especially Kelly Tours bus shuttle service and Coastal Security Services, went above and beyond to make parking at the public school campus and the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn work smoothly.

By daylight, new highway signs were in place; people were there to guide every vehicle to the right spot; buses were lined up waiting; law enforcement was present; and arrangements were soon made for the buses to use the quicker Cross Island Parkway toll road.

Many volunteers, such as the Hilton Head Island Rotary Club members who rode the buses to acquaint patrons with the island and the tournament, pulled extra duty in new places.

There are certainly many others who also deserve credit. It seemed to be a team effort that brought order to a situation that easily could have been a big mess.

Parking will get a major review prior to the 2015 tournament, which may be back to full sun and greater attendance. Parking in Sea Pines has long been an issue, rain or shine. Permanent off-site parking will be part of the discussion. The tournament staff should get input from all those working on the ground this year because they learned a lot that can help guide the future.

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