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Annual Tournament Best Course Experience for Student Interns

April 2019 Mayor David McCann as seen in Celebrate Hilton Head Magazine

Thousands of visitors and golfers will arrive on Hilton Head Island this month for the fifty-first annual RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing golf tournament. They’ll be greeted with tournament fanfare, manicured greens and, we hope, good weather.

What they and our residents will see on the surface is the outcome of lots of preparation that has been taking place behind the scenes. Tournament director Steve Wilmot and his team spend hours getting everything ready. They have a special group of students helping them with almost every detail: the interns.

I’m not referring to medical interns, who cut their professional teeth following doctors around in hospitals and other medical settings. I’m speaking of interns who have been here on Hilton Head Island since January learning the ropes of planning and managing golf tournaments. They are privileged to be here for this PGA TOUR event - the only one in South Carolina.

The seven students from across the United States and Canada are being exposed to every facet of the tournament as part of their college majors - from sports management, event marketing and sports administration to strategic communications, hospitality management and recreation management. And they represent excellent schools including George Brown College in Canada, University of Cincinnati, University of Minnesota, Penn State University, University of Central Florida and Illinois State University.

When it comes to learning, nothing beats real hands-on experience. I applaud Steve and his team for providing that to these students and giving them a taste of what it is like on the frontlines of a tournament with national and international acclaim. The internship is a coveted experience with up to 40 or more students applying for it every year. Students learn of it from their college advisors and word of mouth. Steve and his team peruse applications, seeking the best and brightest to bring here for a semester. Although the internship is unpaid, the students are housed at no cost. What a great place to learn and what a great team to learn from.

The interns hit the ground running and get assigned to different parts of the tournament: operations, ticketing, outreach, sales and marketing, pro-am events and tournament service. They help with special events before and during the tournament and assist with set-up for the actual tournament. Each morning of the tournament, they distribute pairing sheets to locations across the golf course. When crowds disperse at the end of each day, they help clean up sky boxes and get them ready for the next day’s visitors. And when the tournament is over, they pitch in with breakdown duties.

The students remain in our town at least through the end of April before heading back to their college campuses to prepare for their graduations. Six of the interns will be graduating in either May or August, and one already has graduated. Our hats are off to them.

Running a tournament is no easy task. Steve Wilmot has been doing this for 33 years, so he can attest to the fact that every hand on deck is needed. The interns are learning from a tournament director who knows the importance of weaving together a world-class event embraced by golfers, fans, volunteers and our community.

The tournament is central to our state and to the island. Annually, it pumps $96 million into the state’s economy and is broadcast in 23 languages to 226 other countries. It is a time when the world has its eyes on Hilton Head Island.

The students are not only learning about the business side of the tournament but also about the benevolence of the Heritage Classic Foundation. It has established its unique tradition by contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually toward four-year college scholarships to high school seniors and to dozens of charities and organizations, benefitting citizens across the region. Since 1987, $41 million has been donated to charities in South Carolina and Georgia and $4.3 million to 332 high-school seniors. Additionally, the PGA TOUR named Second Helpings, a charitable organization in our community, as its 2018 Charity of the Year for its efforts in combating hunger in South Carolina.

Hilton Head Island is so blessed to host such a beloved sporting event that not only enriches our community but paves the way for student interns to pursue their dream careers.