PEPER COLUMN: No better hosts for worlds best golfers
Twenty-one years ago today, I was interviewing Payne Stewart on the driving range at the Ocean Course when we both heard a loud roar. The Concorde, carrying the European players, staged a short detour and fly-over while on its final approach. The world was about to learn more about golf in the Lowcountry via the ’91 Ryder Cup.
This week, more people from even more places will get a much closer view as, finally, the PGA Championship comes to town.
We’ve heard for almost three years that this was coming, and now it’s here. Our own Charleston, hosting the state’s first major sporting event.
Are we up to it? It appears all the pieces are in place. America’s toughest golf course is the venue. The city recently was named the top tourist destination in the U.S. Kiawah is a world-class resort, and an expected 210,000 spectators will traipse through the dunes in the August heat to see the biggest names in this sport.
Will it make a bigger splash than the Ryder Cup? Corporate America is certainly betting it will, based on the number of tents and hospitality suites.
Nobody really knows yet if all the logistics and countless hours of planning will work when trying to funnel 30,000 people a day onto an island where there’s one way on and one way off. Shuttle drivers are certain to be smiling and courteous this morning, maybe we should check in with them about Sunday evening to see how many syllables are in monotony.
If you’re going to spend a day at the golf course, you know the drill: Cover your head, drink extra water and apply additional sunscreen. Also, it’s probably not the best idea to call in sick one day and show up the next day at work with your face and arms looking like boiled shrimp.
Our hotels and restaurants are booked and hope for a big week. If you expect to see some of the PGA’s most familiar faces around town, the best bet for that would be tonight and tomorrow, maybe Wednesday. Those guys are not going to leave the island once the tournament begins unless it’s because they miss the cut Friday.
Are there going to be some hiccups? Sure.
Is somebody going to fall out from the heat? Probably! It’s August in Charleston.
Are there going to be long lines of traffic? Absolutely! (Some of you might be reading this while waiting for the shuttle bus to move right now.)
Just build it into the experience and share the stories with your buddies later.
Emotion at the ocean
In spite of all the planning and the thousands of people who stage such events for a living, the only way this week really works is with public cooperation. We’re known for our manners, our restaurants and the city’s beauty and charm. Tickets were sold to visitors from 44 states and 10 countries.
No matter how much second-guessing, something’s not going to work perfectly at some point.
But with all of that, there’s a chance that the only thing somebody learns or knows about Charleston is what you share with them. Be a good host. Answer the necessary questions about heat, humidity and sand gnats. (They’re called no-see-ums around here because when they bite, you don’t see ’em.)
It’s the biggest sporting event Charleston and the state has ever seen. We’re the lucky ones. We live here all the time and start our vacations next week!
I’m just sayin’ …
Reach Warren Peper at email@example.com.