Heritage Classic Foundation's local impact can't be overstated

Where is the intersection of money and golf, and even more specifically, the long-term financial impact on our local economy of an event like the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing?

Did you know that the first Heritage Classic was played 45 years ago on Nov. 27-30, 1969, and offered a $1,000 purse with $20,000 going to its winner, Arnold Palmer? Today’s purse of $5.8 million and winner’s share of over $1 million have certainly kept up with inflation.

With the success of the tournament, its economic impact on our community has grown as well.

A 2010 Clemson economic study indicates that the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing creates $80 million in annual economic impact.

One week generates $80 million in revenues for local hotels, rental companies, restaurants, caterers and more!

Beyond our borders we feel the impact almost globally as the beauty of our island is transmitted around the world through 15 hours of prime-time television coverage.

The ongoing shots of Calibogue Sound and Harbour Town Yacht Basin are priceless advertisements that most communities can only dream about!

Let’s be frank with ourselves, there are VERY few of us that did not come here first as visitors (read tourist). In order to keep this island’s economy running, we need to tell our story to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Now let’s focus on the longest-lasting impact of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, which is the charitable giving that the tournament generates every year through the Heritage Classic Foundation.

The PGA Tour has contributed more than $2 billion to charities across the country. Golf may be the only professional sport to have this close of a philanthropic connection to communities and most particularly to a community the size of Hilton Head Island.

Let’s look at the ways the Heritage Classic Foundation makes an impact directly on our community.

First, the Scholars Program in 2013 alone granted $273 thousand to college bound local high school seniors.

These students are our best and brightest and, unlike many of the scholarships granted to local high school seniors, the Heritage Classic Foundation commits to supporting these young people over the four-year period that they are in college. Ever-to-date, the Heritage Classic Foundation has awarded $3,274,850 to 252 students.

Second, the Birdies for Charity Program allows local non-profit 501(c)3 organizations to piggy back on the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

Some of our most deserving community organizations partner with the PGA Tour and solicit their supporters to make a pledge to contribute from one cent to over $1 for each birdie made by the PGA Tour professionals during the tournament.

Believe it or not, last year’s event produced 1,321 birdies, and when you add the Heritage Classic Foundation’s 20 percent “extra,” then a whopping $694,407 went to local non-profits. Since 2000 that total contribution was $4.3 million.

That has an impact on those organizations that are serving those in need in our community and makes a contribution to our local economy.

The third leg of the charitable giving story coming out of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing is a relatively new program which was introduced in 2013.

The Heritage Champions Fore Charity program was developed in an effort to grow the philanthropic impact of the Heritage Classic Foundation and spread its impact throughout the year.

In 2013, the program’s first year of operation, it generated over $604,000 in contributions.

The concept is simple. By supporting the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing by purchasing tickets and contributing to an approved charity, the local non-profit receives an automatic 20 percent match that directs more funds to charitable organizations that locals choose.

So in a “Money” column why should we care about a golf tournament?

What we are talking about is likely the largest business in Beaufort County next to our governmental and health care organizations.

The RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing is an economic engine that affects each one of us throughout the year.

Two short years ago we were in danger of losing this event due to our inability to find a sponsor and then Royal Bank of Canada and Boeing stepped in and signed on for five years.

It is important to remember that we almost lost our signature island event and to realize the benefit that it brings to our community. Not only is it a fun event with national exposure, but a year round economic impact on our lives.

I look forward to seeing everyone, sporting a full pay ticket, at Harbour Town.

Elihu Spencer is a local amateur economist with a long business history in global finance. His life’s work has been centered on understanding credit cycles and their impact on local economies. The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources considered reliable but the accuracy cannot be guaranteed.