By Hope Arent, PVC Content Guru
Hilton Head Island has been home to the RBC Heritage since 1969, when island founder Charles Fraser was looking for a way to market the course and invited the best players in the world to come and participate in the tournament. There is a ton of history behind the tournament that weaves directly into the foundation of Hilton Head and what makes the Lowcountry the place it is.
There are some great resources that delve deeper into the tournament history to celebrate the 50 year anniversary available on the RBC Heritage website. We wanted to share some of our favorite interviews/sound bites we found from key players, organizers, volunteers, and fans of the event with you and hope you enjoy learning more about how special it is that we get to celebrate 50 years of the Heritage.
The Arnold Palmer Effect – Maynard Barker Interview
According to Maynard Barker, a Hilton Head Island resident for 52 years, without Charles Fraser who brought the Heritage to the Island, none of what you see today would be here. Everyone thought it was crazy to bring a tournament to Hilton Head Island, but Fraser did it and brought some of the best golfers in the world – including Arnold Palmer. Barker remembers that with Palmer won, it immediately put Hilton Head on the map. Sea Pines, Harbor Town, and the Heritage Golf Classic were all talked about in a big way. Arnold Palmer hadn’t won in around 16 months when he won the 1969 inaugural event, and just like when big names when after a dry spell today, it made news.
Part of the reason Arnold Palmer’s win was such a big deal was because it kept him coming back. There is still the legendary factor of Arnold Palmer that golfers of all ages recognize today – but for comparison’s sake, it’s like if Tiger or Jordan Spieth won and then continued to come back. It was great for the island, our economy, and provided the foundation for everything we know and love about the event and our island golf community today.
Payne Stewart Strapped for Cash – Chris Corken Interview
The date of the Heritage has bounced around since 1969, but for the last 30 or so years, the tournament has fallen the week after The Masters. Chris Corken, current president of the Corken Group, shared a great story from when he was working in the tournament office some years ago.
It was the Sunday night before the tournament, and some very normal looking guy in jeans walked into the tournament office, looking like anyone off the street could have. However, it just so happened it was Payne Stewart, who had arrived in his courtesy car from Augusta National and was hardly recognizable without his signature plus-fours/knickers. He had gotten to Sea Pines, and had no cash to get himself through the night and came to get some help. The irony of this successful golfer having to borrow money was an afterthought, with the main impression he left being how gracious and kind he was to everyone in the office.