HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA | The most remarkable element of this RBC Heritage at the Harbour Town Golf Links can’t be found on the leaderboard.
It’s in what isn’t seen.
Last October, Hurricane Matthew – a Category 2 storm – raged across the island, doing millions of dollars of damage while disrupting life for weeks. Thousands of trees came down, homes were flooded, power was out.
Debris from the Harbour Town yacht basin, which sits at the foot of the famous lighthouse, wound up scattered across the 18th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links, which was underwater for a time.
Getting life back to normal was the first order of business. Getting Harbour Town ready to host the PGA Tour was another challenge.
With the island full on Easter week and large galleries at the RBC Heritage, tournament director Steve Wilmot could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“I got emotional at the pro-am draw Tuesday night,” Wilmot said. “We didn’t want to dwell on the hurricane but there was so much everyone had to go through. We can’t forget the hurricane happened but we’ll be better for it and from it.
“You learn from your challenges. What’s been accomplished is amazing.”
The golf course lost several hundred trees, including a handful of strategic ones. Wilmot laughs at the fact that while downed trees were being removed across the island, 60 new trees were being brought onto the golf course to replace some that were lost.
Wilmot said the Calibogue Sound is now visible from the 15th tee because so many trees were cleared out by the storm.
“The island feels fresh and bright now,” Wilmot said. “It was like a cleansing of sorts. But there are still damaged homes and the full cleanup is expected to take a year and a half.”