The PGA Tour drops anchor on Hilton Head Island for the 46th time next month, and the tournament represents a model for longevity. Names change; quality remains.
Andy Pazder, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, put it this way: The April 17-20 event, now called the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing, “is a microcosm of the Tour.”
Heritage champions have ranged from Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin and Tom Watson in the early years, to Payne Stewart, Greg Norman, Davis Love III and Nick Faldo in the middle, before evolving to recent winners such as Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Brandt Snedeker and Graeme McDowell.
“The generational shift on the Tour is like at this tournament,” Pazder said at the tournament’s media day.
“The Tour has gone from Palmer and Nicklaus to (Tiger) Woods and (Phil) Mickelson to some of today’s emerging stars - Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Harris English, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson (Dutch Fork/Coastal Carolina) and others,” such as Rory McIlroy.
“Just five years ago, players under the age of 32 won only 26 percent of our tournaments,” Pazder said. “Last year, players under 32 won 52 percent of the time. There are just a lot of young players with great golf games.”
The shift toward youth among tournament champions is not the Tour’s only change. The wrap-around schedule — the current season began in October rather than the traditional January start — is new, too.
“Tremendously successful,” Pazder said. “This week’s tournament (Honda) is the 15th of the season and we’re one-third of the way through. The strength of (fall tournament) fields has increased and young players have stepped up.”
Like the Tour, any event’s success is about the sum of its parts, said Don Calhoon, the RBC Heritage’s honorary tournament chairman.
“All the pieces — sponsors, venue, volunteer corps and tradition — must come together,” he said, “and no tournament has those things like the RBC Heritage. This is one of four tournaments to have been played on the same course through the years, and that builds history.
“Our volunteers give 25,000 hours of service every year. Sea Pines is continually upgrading, the players love the (Harbour Town) golf course and our sponsors are the best.”
Players committed to this year’s event include major champions McDowell, Love, Furyk, Cink, David Toms and Ernie Els.
Paige Cribb, director of student support in Coastal Carolina’s Professional Golf Management Program, has been elected secretary of the Carolinas PGA Section, becoming the organization’s first female officer. Among others, outgoing president Mike Casto (Fort Jackson GC) and Tom Mason (Par Tee Golf Center) will serve on the board of directors. ...
The 29th Pro-Lady tourney will be March 27 at Ponderosa CC in Batesburg-Leesville. For information or to enter, call pro Buddy Bostain at (803) 532-3472. ...
The CC of South Carolina near Florence is open to public play. ...
The CGA will present rules seminars at six locations this month: Monday at Woodside Plantation, Aiken; March 11, Port Royal GC, Hilton Head Island; March 11, Holly Tree CC, Simpsonville; March 12, Westcott GC, Summerville; March 13, Forest Lake Club, Columbia; and March 18, Members Club at Grande Dunes, Myrtle Beach. For information, call the CGA at (910) 673-1000, or email email@example.com. The seminars, from 5:30 p.m.until 7:30 p.m., are free, but pre-registration at www.carolinasgolf.org is encouraged.