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Matthew No Match for RBC Heritage

April 2017Mayor David Bennett as seen is Celebrate Hilton Head Magazine

Certainly, we love April on Hilton Head Island. Spring has arrived, and with it comes the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. I had the opportunity to speak at Media Day for the tournament, and would like to share with you the remarks I made there.

"Welcome to the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing Media Day. On behalf of the Town of Hilton Head Island, I’m delighted that you've chosen to visit with us today.

You know, we had another famous visitor just a few short months ago. His name was Hurricane Matthew. He was strong and swift and, unfortunately, he handed out autographs all around town. But, as powerful as Matthew was, our island is much more so.

You see, there's a great deal that Matthew just didn’t know! For instance, Matthew didn’t know that though we have an internationally recognizable "cover-girl" beauty, our true brilliance lies below the surface. When he ferociously scratched our face, Matthew didn't know that it would simply reveal our inner appeal, where our strength truly resides.

He also didn’t know that we could hold the Concours d'Elegance, the prettiest of parties, less than a month after his arrival, and that we could clean up two plus million cubic yards of debris, swiftly and stylishly.

He surely didn’t know that we were prepared for him. Our town was altogether anxious to arrive home, to help each other out and to get back to island life. How could he know that we are Hilton Head Strong, and that we face difficulties with unparalleled determination? Certainly, Matthew didn’t know that the RBC Heritage, presented by Boeing, had faced enormous obstacles before he ever showed up, and that this wonderful tournament has always emerged victorious.

To hear the story told, doubters cast dark clouds over the idea of whether a small, sleepy place like Hilton Head Island could support and sponsor a PGA tournament. But then, Jack Nicklaus showed up—and he, together with Pete Dye, designed the wonderful Harbour Town Golf Links. To top it off, the "King," Arnold Palmer, took home the first trophy.

The winds raged again in the mid-1980s. Legal and financial difficulties, including bankruptcies and divestitures, seemed like insurmountable hurdles. With only four months until the event, the PGA's support of the tournament seemed to hinge on selling the "crown jewel" of Hilton Head Island’s golf courses. Thankfully, Hilton Head Islanders John Curry and John West braved the storm and, in short order, raised sufficient funds to establish a credit line to back the tournament and secure the PGA's support.
2011 brought a wave, which seemed very much like a tsunami. It washed away our title sponsor! Undaunted, and undeterred, the Heritage Classic Foundation drew deeply upon its reserves and the Town of Hilton Head Island and Beaufort County each shored up the tournament’s finances. But the forecast for a 2012 tournament looked bleak and foreboding. Our very capable tournament director, Steve Wilmot, was quoted in Golf Digest: "We’re approaching the twelfth hour," he said. "There is a sense of urgency here."
Indeed, an all-hands-on-deck approach proved necessary. With the tremendous help of former Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham, among others, our friends at RBC and Boeing demonstrated much appreciated confidence in the tournament and our community by agreeing to sign on as Title and Presenting Sponsors. Thank you both. I'm delighted for them and for us that the relationship has met and exceeded all our expectations, and that they've each recently renewed their sponsorships.

Clearly, Matthew didn’t know any of these things. But, we Hilton Head Islanders know! And now, you know, too.

And what of our fine and distinguished Heritage Classic Foundation? How could we ever adequately express our gratitude for what you’ve done and do for our community? Know that I, speaking for many, appreciate you!

Welcome to the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. May your visit here be a most memorable one."