Hilton Head, SC gears up for RBC Heritage 2022 as COVID wanes

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The long-awaited return to normal at Legacy finally seems to be here.

No fans were allowed access to Harbor Town Golf Links in the early months of the pandemic two years ago. And attendance at the golf tournament in 2021 has been capped at 20% capacity.

But 2022 should be different. The public bleachers are back. The heritage lawn is also back.

There are a few changes, such as a move to digital-only tickets and a reduction in crowd size due to a restructuring of RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing’s ticket sales strategy.

Fans and local leaders, however, are gearing up for what will ultimately be the biggest event in Hilton Head since COVID-19 first swept through South Carolina in March 2020.

The “worries of the world are not there (during) these four or five days when we have the chance to relax,” said Mayor John McCann.

“It brings out the pride we have in our community,” McCann said of Heritage. “It’s such an uplifting event.”

the PGA Tour Tournament will start on Monday and will continue until Sunday, April 17. Defending champion Stewart Cink is on the court. Rental slips at Harbor Town Yacht Basin, as of Thursday, were full. And longtime fans are gearing up for Plaid Nation Day.

“COVID-19 has brought a great perspective for all of us: community is so important, especially through the greatest challenges,” tournament director Steve Wilmot wrote in a statement. “Having the opportunity to welcome our fans to the pitch is an honour. … Our cherished traditions are back.

2016 RBC Legacy Opening Ceremonies
A crowd sits in the sunshine during the 2016 Opening Ceremony of the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament presented by Boeing on the 18th green of Harbor Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island. Photo from personnel file

A busy week awaits you

On Wednesday, hotel occupancy on the island during tournament week was expected to be around 93.5%, according to third-party metrics provided to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

Home and villa rentals, meanwhile, are expected to have an occupancy rate of around 77.1%, chamber spokeswoman Charlie Clark said, citing the data.

“With the tournament back at full capacity for spectators this year, and the corporate aspect of the tournament returning to more normal levels, it will be (a) economically strong year for the tournament as well as for our local business community and local charities who also benefit,” Clark said.

Tournament push-ups over $102 million into the South Carolina economy each year and typically has more than 1,200 volunteers, according to organizers.

Sea Pines Marina Captain Leslie Whitener, meanwhile, added that the roughly 35 rental slips in Harbor Town are booked Wednesday through Sunday.

Many boaters from Florida and North Carolina, as well as locals, will be in the marina, Whitener said.

“It’s going to be fun. It’s been two years since it’s been open in its own right, so it should be great,” said the harbor master, who noted that the new, larger Quarterdeck restaurant was also coming. to reopen.

Angela McSwain, director of marketing and communications for the Heritage Classic Foundation, confirmed on Saturday that all tickets for the tournament had been sold out.

How many spectators will be present?

McSwain said Friday there are 120,000 tickets available this year, so the tournament expects 120,000 spectators to attend the event between Tuesday and Sunday. (Fans are not allowed on the course on Monday.)

For context: In 2019, there were 135,000 participants, according to tournament organizers.

“We realized on Saturday in 2019 that we couldn’t have another person on the course. didn’t have an optimal experience. We came out of that number of tickets,” Wilmot, Tournament Director, recently said.

The Heritage, meanwhile, had no spectators in 2020 and limited attendance to 20% of its normal attendance rate in 2021. (Using 2019 crowd figures, The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette had previously estimated that 27,000 people were expected at the tournament last year.)

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Stewart Cink hits the green from the 16th fairway during the final round of the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina on Sunday, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) Stephen B. Morton PA

“It’s going to be, I think, a great year”

For many, the Heritage is more than a golf tournament.

Charlie Schroeder, 47, grew up on the island and has frequented Heritage for decades.

“I grew up on hole #2. My grandmother had a townhouse there and I ended up going there as a young boy,” said Schroeder, realtor at The Alliance Group Realty. .

But what’s special about the tournament now?

“Just seeing the beautiful nature, the baby alligators coming out, all the flora and fauna and the smells of popcorn…things that year after year are traditions.”

The ceremonial cannon fired over Calibogue Strait.

Meet celebrities and PGA Tour golfers.

Reunion with old friends from middle school and high school.

“You know, we get old, man. I am almost 50 years old. And all these people come from different places. … I love taking pictures with all my old friends,” Schroeder said.

Following the coronavirus disruptions of 2020 and 2021, “it’s going to be, I think, a great year,” he said.

Sam Ogozalek is a reporter for The Island Packet and covers COVID-19 recovery efforts. He is also a member of the Report for America body. He recently graduated from Syracuse University and has written for the Tampa Bay Times, The Buffalo News and the Naples Daily News.

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