Tradition Dictates… It’s Time to Get Your Plaid On
Author: Kitty Bartell
The Heritage remains timeless; celebrating its forty-ninth year, and holding close to the traditions of its early incarnation, all the while the sands of time have done some shifting under once-spiked, now spike-less, foot. The 2017 RBC Heritage sponsored by Boeing, one of only three PGA Tour events to have been held on the same golf course in the same community from its inception—Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines Resort—and hosted by the Heritage Classic Foundation, the tournament’s philanthropic partner, will take place April 10-16, bringing along some fresh new enhancements that will elevate the experience.
In 1969 the inaugural Heritage champion, Arnold Palmer celebrated his fifty-fifth PGA Tour win on Hilton Head Island. With his renown and legions of Arnie’s Army, the collective head of golf enthusiasts was turned toward Hilton Head Island. “Charles Fraser’s vision of having a tournament was really unique and special,” said Steve Wilmot, tournament director. “Who would have thought that a gentleman by the name of Mr. Arnold Palmer would have won the first event? Sea Pines sold 600 lots that year, and the rest is history.”
Most locals, including Wilmot, can trace the reason they came and likely stayed in the area, is directly linked to that year, that tournament, that winner, and that inspired decision on the part of Sea Pines’ founding father.
What makes The Heritage timeless? “We continually strive to be better, to get better,” Wilmot said. That requires the ability to keep what works, identify good opportunities, and evolve when the sands begin to shift. And it all begins with a little cannon fire. Tradition dictates that the past year’s champion opens the festivities by hitting a golf shot into Calibogue Sound, accompanied by a round of cannon fire. “That’s something special and unique that speaks to this tournament.”
Charitable giving and volunteerism have gone hand-in-hand with The Heritage. Thousands have volunteered over the years, and all those hands and feet joined forces with the Heritage Classic Foundation when they began their non-profit efforts on behalf of the tournament in 1987. Since that year, the organization has distributed $35 million to charities in South Carolina and Georgia.
“The atmosphere of the tournament has stayed the same,” said Angela McSwain, marketing director for the Heritage Classic Foundation. “It’s a place where people come back year after year [85 percent of ticket buyers today have bought over multiple years]. You meet up with your friends and family; it’s a big party.” All that fun generates a big give-back to local charities.
2016 RBC Heritage Winner, Brenden Grace
The PGA Tour players and the media covering the event have played a pivotal role in setting the timbre at The Heritage. Scheduled the week after The Masters, it has been suggested that one of the best drives of Master’s week may not be up Magnolia Lane, but the one down to Hilton Head Island, where players and press have found the tour event highly conducive to family time.
Directing the spotlight on the tournament play, the visiting contingent is left to enjoy the beach, the bike paths, the restaurants, the shopping, the downtime—like locals. Of course, they always leave a bit of a glow wherever they go. “Did you see who was in line for tacos with his family?” “Wait…was that who I thought it was getting buried in the sand by his kids?” “Guess who was sitting next to me listening to Gregg Russell last night!?” It’s that glow that makes this tournament and this place something special.
And what is it that makes The Heritage timely? Those fan enhancements, for one. The shifting sands of sponsorships at this year’s Heritage are bringing two new not-to-be-missed locales on-course to complement and elevate the occasion. The HCF is welcoming Tito’s Handmade Vodka as an official partner, with pouring rights throughout the week’s events. Tournament guests will find Tito’s Stillhouse, a rustic-vibe venue, outfitted with a video board to keep up with play, located on the Heritage Lawn between the seventeenth green and the eighteenth tee. “It’s the hub of the tournament,” McSwain said. “It’s where everyone goes to hang-out.”
Another inviting addition to the tournament line-up is the Wine@Nine venue, located on-course between holes one and nine.
Another inviting addition to the tournament line-up is the Wine@Nine venue, located on-course between holes one and nine. Open to the public throughout the week, this new tournament feature is where wine lovers will have the opportunity to watch the tournament while enjoying wines from vintners, including Simi Winery and Meiomi. Premium wines, sparkling wines, and mimosas will be served. Spectators can watch the tournament action live on hole number nine from elevated platforms, or on the video board, with proceeds from Wine@Nine supporting the Hilton Head Island Fire Fighters Foundation.
Palmer was the first and last victor to accept his trophy not wearing The Heritage’s signature plaid jacket—the tournaments very own registered Scottish plaid, woven only on the bonny isle.
“Getting your plaid on” has become a tradition in-and-of-itself, and as the PGA Tour and the HCF look forward to, and are planning for The Heritage’s fiftieth anniversary in 2018, stocking up on a little plaid is certainly in order. For the eyes of the world will once again be on the links, the lighthouse, and the Lowcountry.
For more information or to purchase tickets please call (843) 671-2448, visit rbcheritage.com, or find them on Facebook at RBC Heritage.