RBC Heritage leaves nothing on the table

Event of the year is more than just a party

Champion’s Portrait
Artist West Fraser created this portrait of defending RBC Heritage champion Satoshi Kodaira. Since 1969, the Heritage champion has been painted by a nationally recognized artist. Coby Whitmore painted champion portraits between 1969 and 1987, while Fraser’s work represents champion portraits from 1988 to present.

Story by Lisa Allen + Photos by Arno Dimmling

Really, filmmakers couldn’t stage a better golf tournament than the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. A course ringed with Spanish moss covered live oaks designed by the master, Pete Dye. The Calibogue Sound-featured finish. That now-plaid-covered-once-candy-cane lighthouse. Evenings featuring die-hard fans crammed into beachfront party houses. Some of them actually watched golf.

For fifty years, the golf tournament has defined Hilton Head Island.”

For 50 years, the golf tournament has defined Hilton Head Island, once a never-heard-of dot off the coast of one of the Carolinas, not sure which one. Now, in large part to that golf tournament, millions and millions have visited Hilton Head. The place rolls off the tongue like the taste of a chocolate truffle: sweet, rich and packed with luscious memories.

Hilton Head Island’s signature week is like the perfect spouse on his or her best days: generous, gracious, fun, attractive and wearing that outfit you like so much. Yup, Hilton Head gets dressed up each year (in plaid) as one would for a first date. It turns the charm up to blinding, yet remains sincere and just so darned NICE!

Add the glamour of dozens of hours of television coverage and any other date just doesn’t measure up.

Red coats
South Carolina governor Henry McMaster, Sir Willie and members of the Heritage Classic Foundation pose with 2018 RBC Heritage champion Satoshi Kodaira. It was the Japanese professional golfer’s first victory on the PGA Tour.

Handsome AND generous

The Heritage Classic Foundation, the owner of the tournament, takes part of its proceeds and pours millions back into the community. Last year, it set a ticket-sales record and gave away a chart-topping $3.3 million to area nonprofits. At last count, nearly 60 students currently receive RBC Heritage scholarships. Other organizations rake in the dough through their concession-stand sales, up to $5 million and climbing. Since 1987, the Heritage Classic Foundation has given away $41 million to charities.

Helping hands
Lili Coleman, executive director of Second Helpings, speaks during Media Day.

The foundation also has called national attention to local nonprofits that excel at their work. Tournament staff submitted Second Helpings for the very prestigious PGA Tour Charity of the Year judging last year and it was selected. That means an extra $30,000 for the Hilton Head-based nonprofit and national attention to its excellent work “rescuing food” from grocery and other stores. Volunteers and staff then distribute the food the same day to other agencies that provide it to those who need it. For the second time in five years, a Beaufort County charity was deemed the best by the PGA Tour, thanks to submissions from the RBC Heritage. The other was Memory Matters.

Plaid Nation sometimes becomes an Army

The tournament rallies nearly 1,200 volunteers for the tournament to greet, tote, clean, ferry, direct, inform, and sometimes shush. It’s hard to shut down that amount of helpfulness after just a week, so it calls up the troops for other endeavors. Last summer, the foundation offered to round up volunteers to fill 800 knapsacks of school supplies for local students. So many people showed up to help, the work was done in 21 minutes. That’s 38 knapsacks per minute, better than one every two seconds. Just thinking about that makes us swoon.

I’ll have fries with that

RBC Heritage, like any good date, tries to anticipate your needs. Not always easy, we know; people are SO fickle. This year, organizers dreamt up a the perfect pairing of play Wednesday at Atlantic Dunes and get skybox hospitality for the tournament, as well as a buy a ticket and we’ll valet park your car for you. At last count, there were eight different multi-day and two day-pass combos. They also clump Charleston and Savannah people together — well, not together together, but separately together — in the Charleston and Savannah Clubs. At the former you’ll be asked, “who are your people?,” at the latter you’ll be asked, “what do you drink?” You don’t want to get that mixed up. Entirely different vibes.

Hidden gem
The craft beer garden behind the 15th hole was a hit in 2018 — offering 12 different options to spectators tired of drinking Budweiser, Michelob Ultra and Shock Top.

Why yes, I do belong here

Tournament organizers also added some privileges to a new Plaid All Access Experience. The pass for two includes valet parking from the Inn at Harbour Town, name recognition and access to the top five destinations within the gates: the Heritage House, Calibogue Club, Doc’s BBQ at 15, 18th Skybox Suite and the Clubhouse. You won’t be turned away from anywhere. You’ve arrived when you can arrive anywhere.

Wanderlust usually takes us to a hospitality tent

Watching golf sure can work up a powerful hunger and thirst. Again, Southern hospitality forbids us from letting that happen, thus several “destinations” to help slack those needs. There is Wine at Nine, Tito’s Stillhouse and now the Coca Cola Kitchen. For those who served in the armed forces, the Patriots Outpost outgrew its location on the 16th and moved to the 7th.

Keeping the Heritage connected

Hargray is the Official Communications Provider of the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing.
Here are a few numbers showing how the local telecommunications company keeps our local PGA Tour event connected.

Number of years Hargray has sponsored the tournament: 50
Number of TVs Hargray supports throughout the course: 91
Number of Wi-Fi stations throughout the course: 19
(including public access on the 18th green)
Number of Point of Sale systems supporting the tournament: 15

Sunrise service throws open the doors by removing them

No longer do you need a ticket to attend the Sunday sunrise service. Instead of on the 18th green, the Easter Sunday service will be held at 7:30 a.m. under the Liberty Oak in Harbour Town so everyone can attend.

More pros than you can shake a stick at

The Wednesday Pro-Am is doubling the number of professional golfers from 52 to nearly the entire field. Instead of lucky groups playing 18 holes with one PGA Tour professional, they will play the front nine with one pro and the second with a different pro. Instagram, beware. A LOT of photos will be coming your way.

Trashy, but in a good way

Palmetto Electric Cooperative and Santee Cooper will be powering the tournament with power generated from the methane from the nearby Horry Landfill in Jasper County. It has showcased that technology for the past 11 tournaments. Santee Cooper uses methane gas, solar and wind power.

Just like home
Kodaira sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to win the 2018 RBC Heritage and earn a plaid jacket. “(Harbour Town) is very similar to the course I grew up on in Japan, with all the tree lines and easy to pick targets. The greens are also similar,” he said.

“The RBC Heritage’s tradition of powering the event with green power has been setting the standard of environmental stewardship for others to follow,” said Jim Brogdon, Santee Cooper CEO. “We applaud the Heritage and Palmetto Electric Cooperative for their continued commitment to green power.”

Yeah, they’re good

The RBC Heritage won “Best Special Event” and “Best Integrated Marketing Plan” from the PGA Tour for last year’s tournament. As one of the longest-running tournaments, the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing continues to stack up the national awards. Not bad for the island’s best party wrapped around a golf course. You really have to experience it. It’s a date you’ll never forget.

Will there be a repeat?

Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira will be competing to defend his 2018 title this year. Kodaira made a 25-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to beat Si Woo Kim. Kodaira was back six shots when he teed off earlier that day.