Despite the lingering economic slump, the 2011 Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament kicks off today with a nearly full lineup of golfers, organizers say.
The tournament, which did not sell out the past two years, came close this year, tournament co-organizer Kim Capin said.
It will feature 28 five-member teams, each of which will include a celebrity, Capin said. The goal was 32 teams.
"It's no question the past few years have been a challenge, but we have a great reputation around the country," she said. "We're not quite a full field, but it's a good turnout."
Organizers attributed increased interest this year to adding the Colleton River Plantation Club's Pete Dye Course to the rotation.
"Colleton's course really appeals to the golf enthusiast. It's a treat to play a premier course," Capin said.
The three-day event begins today with a 9 a.m. shotgun start at the Robert Trent Jones Course in Palmetto Dunes. Play moves Saturday to the Pete Dye Course, then Sunday to Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines.
Admission to the tournament is open to the public for a $5 donation. Autographs are available before and after play.
Since its start in 1979, the tournament has raised $3.8 million for local charities such as Heroes on Horseback, The Children's Center, Volunteers in Medicine, Bluffton Self Help, and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry.
"We want everyone to have fun and enjoy the island and the beach, but we want people to remember that children's needs can't wait for economic recovery," Capin said.
Area residents and representatives from charities that will benefit from the tournament have volunteered to help with the event.
The celebrity guest list and extracurricular activities also evolved this year, introducing new players, such as "Lost" actor Terry O'Quinn and The Golf Channel's Gary Williams, and bringing back favorites, like songwriter Paul Williams and "Late Show" announcer Alan Kalter.
Non-golf events, such as a wine dinner Thursday at eat! restaurant owned by Hilton Head resident and Food Network host Robert Irvine, have nearly sold out, co-organizer Carol Kavanaugh said.
Today's activities include an oceanside party featuring Casino under the Starts and sponsored by Hargray. On Saturday, Irvine will be the host of a take on his "Dinner: Impossible" television show.
"All the evening events sold very quickly," Kavanaugh said. "We just want to keep it exciting and different than the usual golf banquet."
Details: 843-842-771, www.hhcelebritygolf.com
Follow staff writer Cassie Foss at twitter.com/LcBlotter.