Myrtle Beach Golf tourism pioneer Cecil Brandon dies
Without Cecil Brandon, Myrtle Beach might never have become the golf capital of the world and as popular a tourist destination as it is.
Brandon, who has been a driving force in the development of the Grand Strand golf market, the golf package industry and the region’s promotion and marketing, died last weekend at the age of 91 .
“Cecil was the cornerstone that made the Myrtle Beach golf industry what it is,” said George Hilliard, who served as executive director of the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association for 26 years from 1988 to 2014. “It’s hard to express what he has done and what he has done in this area, and I will miss him dearly.
Brandon founded what is now the Brandon Agency in 1959, and the company has advertised and marketed for and on behalf of the Myrtle Beach area for decades.
He helped form the Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday Marketing Co-operative in the 1960s which brought together hotels and golf courses to create golf packages and promote the area, and he spent 30 years as a volunteer executive director to lead the cooperation between competitors within the market that separated Myrtle Beach from other markets.
Few have loved Myrtle Beach more or done more for the area than Brandon.
“He thought it was heaven,” said Brandon’s son Scott, who runs the agency. “He loved this region.”
Brandon was a visionary who knew what Myrtle Beach could be and he helped her make it happen.
“At that time [in the 1960s and ’70s]Myrtle Beach was totally famous for golf and not by many else. That’s really what drove all the growth, ”Scott Brandon said. “Obviously over time it became more famous for being a family beach destination, but he saw it all in the early ’60s.”
Scott Brandon said his father was surrounded by friends and family for days before he passed away peacefully. Services were held for Brandon on Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church in Myrtle Beach, followed by a gathering of friends and family at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club, where he was a longtime member, past president and alumnus. club champion.
Building the golf market
Brandon played golf and soccer at Davidson College, entered the United States Army as a second lieutenant, and served as the Army Infantry Intelligence Officer during the Korean War. He started his professional career selling insurance and transitioned to a job with Wachovia Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina, before moving to Myrtle Beach.
While waiting for another job in the bank to start, Brandon came to Myrtle Beach at the behest of his father, a former WWII Air Force photographer who asked him to take pictures from Myrtle Beach and creating postcards to sell in her gift shop.
Brandon saw a greater opportunity to sell the postcards to hotels in the area, who would in turn sell them to customers upon reception.
“My dad always told this story,” Scott Brandon said. “He said, ‘I made more money in three months selling postcards than working 12 months in the bank. I thought I would come here and work three or four months a year and play golf, hunt and fish the rest of the time. That was sort of what he did. He loved to hunt, fish and play golf and he did so quite a bit in those early years.
It was the start of Brandon Advertising. It developed when hotels asked Brandon to create brochures and advertisements for magazines and newspapers.
Before the internet, Brandon required guests to fill out cards with their mailing addresses so he could build a mailing database of past customers, and he engraved metal plaques with the addresses for mass mailings.
“He hated it when I went there [as a child] because I would pull the metal sleeves out of the drawer and drop them all and they were sorted alphabetically, ”recalls Scott Brandon. “He had hundreds of these drawers with metal plates.
The Brandon agency now has over 100 employees with offices in Charleston, Charlotte and Orlando in addition to Myrtle Beach.
“The biggest thing that happened to me was being in Myrtle Beach,” Brandon told The Sun News in 2002.
With the help of Herb Forrester, Clay Brittain and others, Brandon started Golf Holiday in 1963 and became its executive director. Golf Holiday merged with a similar company created by George “Buster” Bryan called Golf-O-Tels, which Brandon also advertised, to become Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday in 1967.
“He started to see how bad it was to have two, they needed to have one, and that’s when he convinced them to get together and to be one organization, ”said Scott Brandon.
Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday started out with eight courses, 10 units and a budget of $ 43,000, and Brandon was the perfect man for the Volunteer Executive Director position with his ability to bring people together.
“We live among the most selfless people in the world,” Brandon told Sun News in 2002. “They were willing to stay out there and pool their money and promote Myrtle Beach as a region. This is why some people find it difficult to figure it out, start one and maintain it.
The Myrtle Beach Golf Market, from Georgetown to Southport, North Carolina, grew to include 120 golf courses in the early 2000s and still numbers nearly 90.
Golf Holiday became in 2018 the marketing and technology agency Golf Tourism Solutions that promotes the Myrtle Beach market.
A community leader
In 1972, Brittain asked Brandon to become a founding member of the Myrtle Beach National Company and he served on its board of directors for 49 years.
He had a friendship with the late Arnold Palmer dating back to their college golf days – Brandon at Davidson and Palmer at Wake Forest – and he helped convince Palmer to design three signature courses at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club. The Myrtle Beach National Company would eventually own and / or operate a dozen Grand Strand courses and several hotels.
In 1974, Brandon became a founding organizer of The Anchor Bank in Myrtle Beach and served on its board of directors until 2000.
In 1982, Brandon lobbied for an exhibit for Myrtle Beach at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, at a time when only countries were allowed to host exhibits, Scott Brandon said. Brandon raised $ 350,000 from the local community to fund the exhibit, which is credited with helping Myrtle Beach become more of a year-round resort destination.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Brandon formed the Myrtle Beach Area Recovery Council with other business leaders and raised over $ 5 million to promote that Myrtle Beach was open and ready for business. .
Brandon was instrumental with former Golf Holiday executive director Mickey McCamish in convincing the PGA Tour to bring the Senior Tour Championship to the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in 1994 for a seven-year race on the Grand Strand that included national television shows. Brandon traveled to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida to meet with tour officials during negotiations.
In 1995, he created with several partners a website development company which would later become the digital advertising agency Fuel Interactive.
Brandon has held many local offices including the President of the Young Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Directors of the Greater Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the President of the Myrtle Beach Elementary Parent Teachers Association, the president of the Dunes Club, the Congressional Tourism Advisory. Caucus Council and First Presbyterian Church Alumnus.
He has received numerous accolades for his contributions to tourism in Myrtle Beach and South Carolina.
Among them are the 1996 Order of the Palmetto, which is the highest citizen honor in the state of South Carolina, the 1996 Habitat for Humanity Award, the 1997 Palmetto Patriot Award, the South Carolina Tourism Award. 1982, American Advertising Federation Silver Medal 1985 for Lifetime Achievement, 1994 Myrtle Beach Citizen of the Year Award, Jason Ammons Free Enterprise Award 1995, ‘1996 South Carolina Tourism Ambassador of the Year and 2003 Jimmy D’Angelo Golf Writers Association Award.
He is also a founding member of the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame, is a member of the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame with fellow Myrtle Beach pioneers Jimmy D’Angelo and Carolyn Cudone, and was elected with D’Angelo one of the golf courses in Caroline from the south. The 10 Most Influential People in History by the South Carolina Golf Course Review Panel.
Brandon is survived by his wife of 46 years, Evelyn Sawyer Brandon, his daughters Beverly Nichols (Robert) and Donna Dellinger (Jay), his sons Scott Brandon (Lisa) and Donnie Todd (Sarah), his grandchildren Dalton Dellinger ( Lauren), Madeleine Stoneman (Grayson), Donnie Todd, Ellison Todd, Robert Todd, Hunter Brandon (Lawson), Haywood Brandon and Haley Brandon.