VIDEO: Heritage officially underway with opening drive, cannon blast

bheffernan@islandpacket.comApril 15, 2013 

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With only a few minor hitches, the 45th annual RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing went off Monday, with opening ceremonies and a visit from several dignitaries.

Defending champion Carl Pettersson used a wooden-shaft club to knock the ceremonial opening drive from the 18th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links into Calibogue Sound. He barely flinched as men in kilts fired a canon nearby.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was in attendance. So was Hilton Head Island Mayor Drew Laughlin and Heritage Classic Foundation Chairman Simon Fraser. They were on hand to thank the sponsors, the event's 1,100 volunteers and mark the start of Hilton Head Island's annual PGA Tour event.

As if the bagpipers weren't enough, overcast skies and misty wind further contributed to the Scottish atmosphere.

But the weather also kept away Gov. Nikki Haley. She was scheduled to fly in and speak at the opening ceremonies but was unable to land at Hilton Head Island Airport because of cloud cover and fog.

Haley's spokesman said in an email that the governor "looks forward to spending time later in the week at this great South Carolina event." Her schedule, released Monday, indicates she will be on Hilton Head Island on Thursday, when competitive play begins, and through the tournament's scheduled conclusion Sunday.

The ceremonies concluded a little more than two hours before explosions rocked the finish line at the Boston Marathon.

The Heritage and other PGA Tour events tightened security more than a decade ago after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as many feared major sporting events might be targeted.

As details of Monday's tragedy in Boston filtered in, Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot said his staff had not yet discussed what changes, if any, would be made to security measures during this week's tournament.

"We'll be looking at this very seriously, and if there is a need to (increase security), we certainly will," Wilmot said late Monday afternoon. "But we feel very comfortable about where we are right now."

He said the tournament works closely with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, S.C. Highway Patrol and Sea Pines Security to provide safety for the players and spectators.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said he has called a meeting with his staff for 9 a.m. Tuesday to "talk about everything and anything, including what happened in Boston."

He said his staff will coordinate with PGA Tour officials and Sea Pines to address and handle "any and all safety concerns."

"There are a lot of (safety measures) in place right now, and we'll coordinate appropriately and assign resources to what we think needs to be done as the week progresses," Tanner said.

Attempts Monday to reach PGA Tour officials were unsuccessful.

Among the speakers at the opening ceremonies was John Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management in the U.S. He said he was "delighted to be able to be here today to celebrate RBC's second year as title sponsor."

He added that RBC's five-year sponsorship of the event, which he said "has a unique culture unlike any golf tournament in America," has been "a success story" so far.

This year's tournament also marks the second year for Boeing as a presenting sponsor. The airplane manufacturer, which operates an assembly plant in North Charleston, will fly a plane 1,000 feet above the 18th hole at noon during Friday's second round. Unlike 2012, however, the plane will not be a 787 Dreamliner produced at the North Charleston plant.

"You may have heard that we are having a bit of a battery problem," joked Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina. The 787 fleet has been grounded since mid-January because of overheating batteries.

Instead, the flyover will be performed by a 747 model equipped with four 787 engines.

The Town of Hilton Head Island is a sponsor, as well, and provided more than $590,000 this year for marketing, transportation and security.

"The Heritage is deeply woven into the fabric of our community -- in fact, before we were a town, we had the Heritage -- and it's time for us to show ourselves off to the world," Mayor Laughlin said.

Related content

  1. Heritage under way; organizers optimistic ceremony won't be the last, April 18, 2011
  2. RBC Heritage golf tournament tees off with tradition - Hilton Head's Harbour Town welcomes new sponsors, April 9, 2012
  3. RBC Heritage coverage in The Island Packet
  4. Follow our sports staff on Twitter for regular updates throughout the week

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