Heritage tournament fares well with taxi company

Tim Griffin has always resisted slapping advertisements on his 30 yellow taxis that shuttle people around Hilton Head Island, Bluffton and Beaufort.

He worries such promotions could anger competitors of the featured businesses and mar the tranquil landscape of barrier islands on which he does business.

Recently, however, he volunteered to make an exception -- not for a business but for the Heritage golf tournament.

For about a month, his fleet has been emblazoned with an image of Willie, the knickers-clad golfer who is the symbol of Hilton Head Island's PGA Tour event. The decals also feature the tournament's website -- www.theheritagegolfsc.com -- and slogan -- "Get your plaid on!"

Griffin is one of several local businesses and organizations finding creative ways to support the tournament, which faces an uncertain future because it lacks a title sponsor.

Others taking action:

  • Go Tri Sports and other local businesses plan a 5-kilometer race April 9 on Coligny Beach to raise money for the Heritage Classic Foundation, the nonprofit foundation that runs the tournament.
  • The Art League of Hilton Head is inviting local artists to submit Heritage-related work for a poster contest that organizers hope will support the tournament and raise money for the league.
  • Griffin, who has owned Yellow Cab since 1988, said he decided to break his long-standing rule about ads so he could express his appreciation for the Heritage, which he said lifts local businesses by attracting people to the area.

    "It helps everybody in business here," he said.

    The decals are only a small step, Griffin said, but he hopes they raise awareness of the tournament and perhaps help solve its sponsorship dilemma.

    The decals have been strategically placed so passengers will see them as they enter a taxi, and drivers have been instructed to refer curious passengers to the tournament's website.

    Griffin credited Sean Custer of Southern Sign & Awning in Bluffton for charging him only for the cost of the materials, saving him about half the job's price.

    Griffin, who secured tournament organizers' approval before adding the decals, next plans to have Custer wrap a golf course scene around Yellow Cab's three 11-passenger vans.

    Tournament spokeswoman Angela McSwain said Heritage organizers, who have emphasized the community's support for the event as they search for a sponsor, appreciate the gestures Griffin and others have made.

    "It's their way of letting everyone know how important the tournament is to our community," said McSwain, who will judge the poster competition with golf landscape artist Linda Hartough.

    Tournament director Steve Wilmot said Willie's image has been spotted motoring around town.

    "I've already had people let me know they've seen it," Wilmot said.