Hilton Head Celebrity Golf Tournament on hiatus for 2014

mmcnab@islandpacket.comJune 23, 2014 

Richard Karn, center, most well known for his co-starring role as Al Borland in the 90s television sitcom "Home Improvement," practices putting before the first round of the 2013 Hilton Head Celebrity Golf Tournament on Hilton Head Island.

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The Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament, beset in recent years by financial problems, will skip 2014.

The event, started in 1978 and typically played over Labor Day weekend, raises money for more than 20 local charities by pairing participants with notable athletes, entertainers and other personalities.

However, the tournament was unable to secure a title sponsor this year, according to co-chairman Paul Smith.

Organizers hope to resume the tournament in 2015, Smith said.

Fearing the lack of sponsorship would mean the event would lose money, tournament officials decided to cancel this year's event now rather than doing so on shorter notice.

"We knew it was going to be touch and go this year," Smith said. "We fully expect to be back in 2015."

The 36-year-old tournament has raised more than $4 million for local charities. Play usually is conducted over three local courses and benefits children's charities, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry and The Deep Well Project Children's Fund.

However, donations and sponsorships bottomed out at the height of the economic recession in 2008 and dropped off again in 2013, Smith said. He declined to say how much the tournament raised in 2013. The tournament attracted more than 30 celebrities and 36 paying players last year.

According to the nonprofit tournament's tax return for 2012, the most recent year available online, the event gave more than $100,000 to charities but operated at a $339 loss. That was an improvement over 2011, when the organization gave away $96,000 but lost more than $63,000.

Organizers tried to hold the line on expenses in 2013, according to tournament marketing director Blanche Sullivan. For instance, a reception at which funds are disbursed was not held.

Since Friday's announcement that the tournament wouldn't have a 2014 edition, volunteers, sponsors and players have offered their help, Smith said. He said he has given them all the same response: Be patient as the board works on the 2015 tournament.

"Hopefully we will bounce back, land on our feet and continue for another 35 years," he said.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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