RBC Heritage

Volunteers climb behnd the wheel to help return courtesy cars

Tom and Betsy Banner work together to figure out the controls to the matching pair of silver BMW X3's the Indigo Run couple were driving back to the BMW factory in Spartanburg on Thursday morning. The cars and SUV's had been loaned to the Heritage golf tournament for golfers and other VIP's to drive during tournament week.
Tom and Betsy Banner work together to figure out the controls to the matching pair of silver BMW X3's the Indigo Run couple were driving back to the BMW factory in Spartanburg on Thursday morning. The cars and SUV's had been loaned to the Heritage golf tournament for golfers and other VIP's to drive during tournament week. Jay Karr/ The Island Packet

The gesture may be small, but for Heritage organizers it's as helpful as a large financial donation.

About 50 Indigo Run residents gathered early Thursday in Sea Pines to drive some of the 160 BMW courtesy cars used during the PGA Tour event by players, sponsors and volunteers back to the vehicles' production plant in Spartanburg. There they'll be auctioned to dealers or used in other golf tournaments around the state in which BMW is a sponsor, assistant tournament director Morgan Hyde said.

Typically, the tournament uses its regular volunteers to pick up and return the cars in exchange for a grounds pass. But with the fate of next year's tournament still unknown, there was nothing to offer. Luckily, Indigo Run residents and the Hilton Head Sail and Power Squadron were willing to step up, expecting nothing in return, Hyde said.

The operation began Wednesday, and more cars will be moved today.

The volunteers, who received a bag lunch and bus ride home, will save the nonprofit Heritage Classic Foundation valuable time and manpower, he said.

"This does help quite a bit. We are elated," Hyde said. "It's great to have them organize this so we can focus on other things."

Tournament workers are still busy tearing down and cleaning up from last week's 43rd Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links.

"Since I can't afford to sponsor (the Heritage), I'll do what I can to help make it happen," said Ed Ehrlich before climbing into one of dozens of BMW mid-size luxury sport coupes.

Tournament officials have been searching for more than a year for a replacement for the previous title sponsor, Verizon.

Thursday's exercise, however, was not without its hiccups.

Some of the volunteers struggled with the newer models' push-start ignition systems and unfamiliar controls.

"I broke it already," joked one volunteer who had difficulty starting a car.

Another pulled out the owner's manual to learn how to turn on the back windshield wiper before getting instructions from her husband.

All drivers were required to have valid insurance to cover potential damage to the cars, which ranged in value from $40,000 to $125,000.

John Kern, commander of the island's volunteer power squadron, approached the Heritage Classic Foundation about ways to help the tournament. Kern said Thursday's effort was a great way to pull the Indigo Run community together to show its appreciation for all the tournament does for the community at-large.

"The Heritage is part of who we are here," Kern said. "Whatever we can do -- no matter how small -- to give a little back anyway we can to the tournament will come back to us."

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