Labor of Love: Hilton Head Celebrity Golf Tournament
Author: Becca Dupps Edwards
Labor Day weekend has been a labor of love for the organizers of the Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament for over 26 years. And this year is expected to be on par. The tournament will be held August 31-September 2 at three different locations: the Golf Club at Indigo Run, the Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes, and the Harbour Town Golf Links at the Sea Pines Resort. Co-tournament directors, Kim Capin and Gayle Wingo, have had a ball planning yet another successful weekend of fun. “Since 1979, our consistency of keeping everyone happy for five days still amazes us, and we never want that to change,” said Wingo.
According to Capin, the tournament began when a group of Hilton Head Island Jaycees planned the first year with Greenwood Development Corporation and the Sea Pines Resort. Soon after, the Melrose Company and ClubCorp joined them in providing golf courses to host the event year after year.
For many participants, playing in the tournament means playing a big role in several worthy organizations. Matching amateur golfers with celebrities, the event benefits children’s charities throughout the area. A total of $2,785,000 has been distributed since its inception, making the tournament one of the most well-respected and longest running celebrity golf tournaments in the country.
Beneficiaries this year include the Children’s Relief Fund, Hospice Care of the Lowcountry, Volunteers in Medicine Clinic and Heroes on Horseback, to name a few. “We currently have 18 children’s beneficiaries and we have had as many as 20 in previous years,” Wingo explained. “While there are many other worthwhile and deserving charities in our area, the sole purpose of our annual event is to focus on children with the greatest needs in Hilton Head, Bluffton and Beaufort. Our tournament provides food for the hungry, safety and shelter for the abused, clothing for the poor, quality daycare, grief counseling, summer camp for the disabled, medical and dental aid and programs that give children the opportunity to develop a sense of self worth and direction.”
Year after year the Celebrity Golf Tournament has shot for high participation and succeeded. “We are most excited that we sold out of playing spots in early June, a necessity to our fundraising efforts,” said Wingo. One big draw for golf goers is the celebrity auction. “We have great one-of-a-kind items, sports memorabilia, travel packages,” said Wingo. “This year, Charley Daniels has signed a fiddle for us and sheet music for The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Tony Bennett, David Letterman, Frankie Valli, Sandy Koufax, Coach Dean Smith, Yogi Berra, Chuck Noll and Ozzie Smith are just few friends who are donating items to the auction.”
With all the hype and hope of seeing well-known personalities, it is often the unnamed heroes that really make the tournament memorable. According to Capin, this will be the sixth year the tournament will honor firefighters from New York City, featured in the award-winning documentary, 9/11. For the third year, the tournament will host service members stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort who have returned from duty in Iraq. “Our firefighters and marines have made a huge impact on our guests,” said Capin. “They serve as reminders to all of us of the men and women throughout the United States who are putting their lives on the line to help us.”
In addition to the camaraderie on the golf course, returning sponsors and their families have built long-lasting friendships that have continued over the course of many years. “As new faces attend each year, they are warmly welcomed in the festive atmosphere of the entire event,” said Capin.
“We are most proud of the fact that our tournament has been the catalyst for great friendships, long-term business relationships and wonderful camaraderie, and it’s all for the right reasons: helping our children,” said Wingo.