Making the Heritage Scene

This month, Hilton Head Island’s Signature sporting event and its largest outdoor cocktail party will happen at the same time and place. The Verizon Heritage Golf Tournament, the Pga’s only stop in South Carolina, has been categorized as both. indeed, depending on who’s talking, it is.

A number of world-class golfers, including two-time winner Boo Weekley, will bring their best game for the world to watch. But many attendees will never see any golf. Most of that group won’t know the names of any of the golfers competing, some won’t know the diference between a tee and a green, and a few won’t know or care who won until long after the tartan plaid jacket has been awarded. (“What plaid jacket?” they will ask.)

But that’s OK. They go for the party, and they spend a lot of money. Harbour Town will be party central for the entire week, especially april 17-19.

First, one must get onto the course. grounds badges at $135 and Clubhouse badges at $165 may seem pricey in a tough economy, but they are good for all seven days. Creative party people could pair up with the golfcentric folks and split the cost. if you yearn to see and be seen on saturday and sunday, find a golf enthusiast (or two) who will be satisfed with monday through Friday admission to share the cost with you.

Grounds badges at $135 and Clubhouse badges at $165 may seem pricey in a tough economy, but they are good for all seven days.

Tournament ofcials are promoting the new Arnold Palmer badge this year and it might be just the ticket. For $450, this badge allows access to the Clubhouse all week, plus admission to two private venues on the course Wednesday through sunday. Wild Wing Club 15 on the 15th green and the heritage Club on the 18th tee both ofer great views, seating and an upscale bufet with beer, wine and soft drinks included.

The daily tickets are in a tear-out booklet that can be shared. With five friends sharing and each taking a “private venue” day ticket, the cost goes down to $90 per person. Once on the grounds, social butterflies meander (back and forth) to their favorite spots. “Social Corner” is nestled somewhat between the No. 10 and No. 16 fairways, and there are plenty of concessions nearby. This is a great spot to discover the latest fashions and gossip.

The spacious walkway between the first tee and the ninth hole is a prime social area too. Only late in the day, as the last golfers come through, does the party migrate toward 18. Each evening, when play is fnished, the party moves of the course. The fun continues until the wee hours all around the yacht basin, aboard sleek cruisers and along the walkways, but mostly at the Quarterdeck, where overfow bars outside serve the masses.

Another option is to participate in the Verizon Heritage Pro-Am on Wednesday, April 15, at Harbour Town. Each amateur will golf with a PGA pro from this year’s tournament.

Each participant also gets a round of golf on the Ocean Course on April 12, and a playing spot in the Am-Am on the Heron Course on April 14.

“Lavish parties” and “camaraderie” are promised, including two tickets to the Tuesday night draw party at the Westin Resort and an awards dinner at Sea Pines Conference Center. Participants get VIP credentials for the week with admission to the Verizon Hospitality tent, plus eight Clubhouse badges, a parking pass, and a gift package.

“The gift package changes every year,” said Angela McSwain, marketing director for the tournament. Past items have included bicycles, treadmills, Ipods, TVs and a host of other top-notch gifts. “Players get points from play and can go on a sort of shopping spree,” she said.

Cost for the package is $5,750. The gift package alone is worth $2000, according to the tournament Web site. McSwain said they will sign up players until just days before the event.

Another amateur opportunity is the Harbour Town Cup Pro-Am on April 13. For $2,500, participants can play one round at Harbour Town with a tour professional, an additional round at the Ocean course, and get eight Clubhouse badges, a pairings brunch and awards reception, a parking pass and a gift package.

Remember too that tournament proceeds go to local charities. With General Motors recently withdrawing its traditional car support for the event, Tournament Director Steve Wilmot had to work fast to land a new car commitment. Bobby Hitt, BMW’s Public Afairs Department manager, saw the value in sharing the BMW tournament’s vehicle feet with the Verizon Heritage. Hundreds of volunteers then agreed to lend a hand by driving the vehicles from the BMW factory in Greer to the Sea Pines Resort. Foster’s Wine Estates, which sells Beringer Third Century, the ofcial wine of the Verizon Heritage, and Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Wine, a corporate hospitality sponsor, stepped up to participate despite the economic downturn.

No matter how one chooses to experience this year’s Verizon Heritage, the important message is “just do it.” Those who miss it might never catch up with the rest of the party.