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RBC Heritage operating as usual after tumultous fall

  • Dan Hunt/Beaufort Today Hilton Head Island Mayor David Bennett addresses the media Monday.

The RBC Heritage is ready for another chapter after cleaning up the wreckage of Hurricane Matthew last fall.

“Without this tournament, we would lose millions and millions of dollars generated by publicity,” Heritage Classic Foundation chairman Simon Fraser said at the PGA Tour event’s media day last week.

“I think you’ll find Harbour Town Golf Links is in as good a shape as it’s ever been. We’re starting to forget about (Hurricane Matthew) because we’re not seeing debris anymore.”

Hilton Head Island Mayor David Bennett reminded the audience that Hurricane Matthew wasn’t the first thing to “cast a cloud of doubt” on the tournament. He cited worried natives during the tournament’s inception in the 1960s, financial struggles in the 1980s and a sponsorship crisis in 2011.

“This wonderful tournament has always emerged victorious,” he said.

Sea Pines director of golf John Farrell echoed those sentiments.

“Because of the ownership and management’s commitment to 52 weeks rather than just one, it was only a matter of a few weeks before we were back open. We’ve cleaned up and we’re better than ever,” he said.

Farrell went on to explain the inevitable changes to the course this year following the cleanup.

“We thinned the tree lines. Now we have more circulation, more sun and less obstacles for (golfers). We lost over 200 trees throughout the golf course but we think only 12 to 15 trees that affect the integrity of the design.”

Several palms were recently planted on much of the course.

Tournament director Steve Wilmot announced a few new amenities for this year, including areas for purchasing products by Tito’s Homemade Vodka, a new sponsor.

Wilmot and company are also introducing “Wine at 9,” which will feature various wine distributors and a large scoreboard for fans, which he said will be similar to the scoreboard at the 18th hole.

Marketing and communications director Angela McSwain said the Snapchat account “RBCheritage” is now live and will be active every week except for that of the tournament in April, during which it is adding a Harbour Town Golf Links “geofilter” in its place.