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RBC Heritage: A Multi-Generational Tradition of Giving Back

April 11, 2018

As the RBC Heritage celebrates 50 years of competition by the best professional golfers in the world this week, the McDuffie-Chester family will be celebrating another milestone: A combined 83 years of volunteering on behalf of the tournament by three generations of family members.  Even before a then 27-year-old Jack Nicklaus began making his indelible mark on the golf world with his very first design at Hilton Head Island’s Harbour Town Golf Links, the McDuffie-Chester family began a legacy as intertwined with the tournament as the tidal marshes and winding creeks that traverse the island. 

In the late 1960’s, Bob McDuffie, a general contractor, and his wife, Marian, moved the family from Savannah to Hilton Head, where Bob became part of a construction team hired by developer Charles Fraser to transform a gorgeous swath of coastal terrain into the village of Harbour Town.  Fraser then set about creating a Scottish links-style layout capable of hosting a PGA TOUR championship, which Nicklaus offered to design.  Unsure of taking a chance on the youthful Nicklaus, Fraser brought in future World Golf Hall of Fame Member Pete Dye to design the course with Nicklaus consulting. The rest is history – an architectural masterpiece that has been named by Golf Digest the No. 2 best course on the PGA TOUR, second only to Augusta National.


When the course opened for play in 1969 and began preparing for what was then known as the Heritage Classic, Marian McDuffie joined the tournament’s first group of volunteers.  It was the start of what would become a lifelong passion spanning 45 years.  To commemorate Hilton Head’s inaugural tournament, the town hosted a parade, and Marian and her friends decided to sew brightly-colored skirts for the young women of the island to wear.  She and her team were then called in to help hem the slacks ordered for volunteers.  When it was clear that the tournament would become an annual event, Marian and her friends formed the first-ever uniform committee to standardize the apparel, and Marian became co-chair and eventually sole chairperson or “Red Coat” – the name now given to tournament chairpersons due to the red blazers they wear.  Marian also became chair of the volunteer tent committee, charged with overseeing the area where volunteers gather throughout the day.  

As the tournament evolved over the years, so did Marian’s role as a volunteer.  Hemming pants for the barely 100 volunteers turned into hiring vendors, selecting styles and outfitting a vast network of more than 1,200 volunteers each year.  Marian also joined with other uniform committee members to assist Heritage Foundation Volunteer Coordinator Bonnie Hunt with the enormous task of assembling credential packets for distribution on Uniform Day.  With staff needs growing, Marian’s daughter, Debbie Chester, began working in the tournament office 12 years ago – first by helping to assemble credential packets, and then as tournament administrative support, where she continues to work under the supervision of Red Coat Janet Mitchell. 

“The RBC Heritage really has become part of our family history,” says Debbie Chester.  “We love the camaraderie, the excitement, and the singular experience of volunteering together as a family on behalf of so many wonderful charitable causes.  We could not think of a better way to give back to the Hilton Head Island community and look forward to many more years of service.”

As tournament tasks became more computerized, Marian began mentoring Debbie to take a leadership role on the uniform and volunteer tent committees, and when Marian retired from volunteering in 2013 after 45 years of service, Debbie was honored to step into these positions while continuing to work in the tournament office.  Ten years ago, Debbie’s husband, Chuck, began volunteering as part of the SHOTLink laser team.

The Chester family continued its legacy of volunteer service four years ago when Debbie’s daughter, third generation volunteer Mary Christian Brewer, began serving on the tournament support team, with her husband, Mac Brewer, joining Chuck on the SHOTLink team.  The tradition for giving may soon extend to the fourth generation, with Mary Christian and Mac expecting a daughter in October.

For more information on volunteer opportunities at the RBC Heritage, visit www.rbcheritage.com.


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