Last month’s Heritage Classic served, as always, to remind us of so much that we are grateful to experience here at the Harbour Town Lighthouse. When Arnold Palmer was awarded the victor’s trophy for the first Heritage Classic in 1969, the lighthouse was topped out in time to stand looking over the presentation. Photos show us capped and framed, yet still without the sides of the cylinder, much less the stripes that the world has come to recognize. One friend says the lighthouse looked on that day like a little boy who had rushed downstairs on Easter morning before getting dressed. Wearing a hat.
Still, the Harbour Town Lighthouse observation deck that people enjoy today could tell the story of how relieved Arnold Palmer looked long ago. His win at the first Heritage Classic broke a winless streak that had lasted an agonizing 14 months. This after averaging four victories a year for 13 years. Relief doesn’t begin to describe the thrill of that first Heritage victory, and the lighthouse was here, just barely, in time to see it all.
Beyond Win or Lose
April marked the 55th Heritage Classic we have witnessed from here at the lighthouse, five of them won by this year’s tournament chairman, Davis Love, III, who understandably is a local favorite. Davis collected his first Heritage Classic trophy in the shadow of the lighthouse at age 23, the youngest Heritage champion ever. And his fifth win came 16 years later, in 2003. Despite the stellar record, Davis would be the first to tell you that victory is just one of the thrills of the Heritage.
It is the tournament to which the PGA pros tend to bring their whole families. One of them told us that going to Hilton Head Island the week after the Masters “is like playing in the Super Bowl and then heading to Disney World.” Clearly, even for professional golfers, there is more to be gained from the Heritage than the single trophy at 18. Here at the lighthouse, we are reminded by the rapture we see in the faces of visitors that in addition to 55 Heritage trophies, we have witnessed more than 20,000 sunsets and welcomed more than two million guests.
The stories that people share with us are continual reminders of the impact that a visit to the Harbour Town Lighthouse can have on the life of a person, a couple, a family, a circle of loved ones. How many marriage proposals were prompted here? How many first kisses? What businesses were inspired from the desire to move here and serve this community, after seeing the view from the lighthouse and deciding to make this shoreline a home?
Examples of each are shared with us day after day, and we have long ago come to expect that the light people see from the Harbour Town Lighthouse provides an even more profound beacon for navigation than the mariners of long ago might have imagined.
A form of inspiration that people discover here that might be less spectacular than our sunsets, yet is no less profound, is the sincerity of the welcome that people get from lighthouse keeper Nadia Wagner and her team. The music in Nadia’s voice as she says, “Welcome to the Harbour Town Lighthouse,” has signaled a peaceful harbor to generations of folks who’ve been fortunate to hear it. You can hear that she means it. It’s as if she’s saying it for the first time.