As we gather here again for the RBC Heritage, it feels as if our eyes are opened fresh once again, seeing all we are grateful to enjoy, here on America’s favorite vacation island. Residents and guests alike, long-term visitors, and first-timers suddenly share this in common. We feel as if we are seeing Sea Pines for the first time.
The freshness of the full-fledged spring breeze, the colors of nature and fashion, the looks of wonder and curiosity, the light of exploring and discovering that we see in faces all around us – this is barely the beginning of an attempt to describe all that the Heritage Classic gives to those of us fortunate to see it firsthand. The giving goes far beyond the tournament celebration itself, too, thanks to the Heritage Classic Foundation, whose home is right here in The Shops at Sea Pines Center.
One of a Kind
As a designated PGA Tour event, the Heritage certainly is one of a series, and yet everyone, from the partygoers to the gallery of golf fans to the PGA pros themselves tells us that the Heritage is distinctively different.
“Coming from Augusta to Hilton Head Island after the Masters is like playing in the Super Bowl, and then going to Disney World,” one PGA pro said memorably. The touring players often arrange for their families to meet them here for the personal kinds of pleasure that Hilton Head Island offers to everyone.
The Multiplier of Joy
It has been that way from the beginning. The Heritage has always taken everyone’s very best efforts to create and yet has always returned far more than we invest – more than the sum of the energy, creativity, resourcefulness, and hard work that the tournament demands. From the experienced professionals of the Heritage Classic Foundation to the hundreds of volunteers who work so generously to make everyone feel at home, the sum is clearly greater than the parts – and the joy that arises from this work has always proven to be greater than one might anticipate.
The course itself – the now-legendary Harbour Town Golf Links – was completed just in the nick of time for the playing of that first Heritage Classic in 1969. The Harbour Town Lighthouse, overlooking the green on 18, was topped out but not yet completed. To gauge how far the Heritage has come since then, imagine a tournament in which the grounds pass was called “pricey” at $20 and where you could add Clubhouse privileges for the whole week for just $10 more.
More Than a Long Shot
Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser, course architect Pete Dye, and advisor Jack Nicklaus were venturing their best efforts, and yet the Heritage was an unknown risk at first, a venture into the never-before. The results went far beyond their plans or even their fondest imaginings. It is said that Fraser sold more real estate during the week of that first Heritage than in all the 12 years of building Sea Pines that preceded it.
Arnold Palmer, who had been winless for 14 months prior to the first Heritage after averaging four victories a year for 13 years prior to his slump, took home the champion’s trophy that Sunday, driving himself away from 18 in his own family station wagon. Palmer won another tournament the very next week and was named “Athlete of the Decade” by Sports Illustrated just two weeks later.
The Magic of Sharing
To say the Heritage paid off would barely begin to describe it. That was just the beginning. The magnetism of the Heritage brought blessings far beyond its own success, thanks to the Heritage Classic Foundation.
Since 1987, the Foundation has donated more than $50 million to charities and worthy causes that meet the needs of folks throughout South Carolina. Nutritious meals and emergency housing, early childhood education and college scholarships, and workforce training and support for the arts and culture are all the result of the blessings that ripple out from the beauty of the Heritage thanks to the Heritage Classic Foundation.
Leading with Love
Friends who follow the foursomes around the links at the Heritage tipped us off years ago to Davis Love III. For some reason, Davis Love has been a particular favorite, and this sense goes over and above his record as a five-time Heritage Champion. Love’s style of play suits the course, which has always been said to call for every club in the bag. And more than that, how he wears his winning ways is another good fit. A gracious and generous temperament is something he has in common with the Heritage itself and with this community.
So, imagine our delight when we learned from the Foundation that the trustees had named Davis Love III honorary tournament chairman this year, for the 55th playing of the RBC Heritage. It is fitting in so many ways.
A Perfect Fit
Love was – and remains – the youngest player to win the Heritage, at 23 in 1987. His fifth win came in 2003 in a nail-biter we all remember, as he out-shot Woody Austin in a sudden-death playoff. Love was five years old when his father played in that first Heritage in 1969. What’s more, on Thursday of tournament week this year, Love blows out 59 candles on his birthday cake, celebrating the last birthday of his own 50s. For Heritage number 55, we couldn’t imagine a better choice to serve as honorary chairman.
Whether you are able to join us in person or among the millions who see the Heritage on TV, we hope you’ll give a thought to how grateful we are to help in hosting such a radiant source of good.