HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - The week of the RBC Heritage is officially underway.
It all begins with a traditional start, as The Citadel Regimental Pipe Band provides the soundtrack for the procession, leading up to defending champion Branden Grace hitting the first tee shot into the Calibogue Sound.
"It's nerve-racking. I thought I jumped a little into the air when I hit it, but it's fun and I've never done that before. It's really a first for the week so really now I can just enjoy the week and hopefully defend well," said Grace.
They also took the time to honor 1969 and inaugural winner Arnold Palmer with a cannon blast, with his grandson and former Clemson standout Sam Saunders on hand to ignite the cannon.
"A lot of us, myself included, probably wouldn't be here if not for what happened 49 years ago,'' said Heritage Tournament Director Steve Wilmot. "It's unique in the fact that it is Mr. Palmer. We've never fired the cannon twice, but we did because of what he meant to the game and not only the game, but people in general. Everybody could learn from the way he conducted himself.''
While always a look forward to an important week on Hilton Head, the opening ceremony for the 49th Heritage included a look back at a more difficult time for the island. Also honored at the ceremony were 37 organizations and agencies, from law enforcement to first responders, who helped Sea Pines and the Hilton Head community recover from Hurricane Matthew, which hit the island hard just six months ago.
"It's easy when you get to this point to look forward,'' said Hilton Head Mayor, David Bennett. "But a lot of people put in a lot of effort to make this happen and it's important to remember that.
"No is not an answer in this world,'' added Bluffton Mayor, Lisa Sulka. "It's just how do we do it. It's just a beautiful day.''
The first of seven days that will train the world's eye on Harbour Town and Hilton Head, for an event even a non-golfer like the new governor can appreciate.
"To have these great golfers here is just a thrill,'' said governor Henry McMaster, who attended the opening ceremony. "I wish everyone in America could come see this.''
Monday through April 16, public parking for the RBC Heritage golf tournament and associated events will be available on Hilton Head Island at the Coligny Beach parking lot at 1 Coligny Circle and at the Hilton Head Island Public School Complex at 70 Wilborn Drive.
Parking at Coligny Beach is first come, first serve and limited to an estimated 475 spaces, so the vast majority of spectators should plan on parking at the school complex.
Throughout the tournament, shuttles to and from public parking areas and Harbour Town Marina are scheduled to start at 6:30 am and end at 9:30 pm.
For more information on parking, shuttles and driving directions, please click here.
WTOC will be there all week with coverage including three, 30-minute specials Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. as Tim Guidera, Cristina Tuso, Ken Griner and all the gang will be there for complete coverage of the 49th edition of The RBC Heritage.