Friday, June 17, 2011

PGA Tour

The Harbour Town lighthouse and the PGA Tour are staying together for at least five more years.
After two years of uncertainty, the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing became a reality Thursday with the five-year sponsorship announcement Thursday at Hilton Head Island, S.C. It will keep the popular tournament fixed on the tour schedule in its traditional spot the week after the Masters.
In making the announcement, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem credited S.C. governor Nikki Haley for her persistence in locating a sponsor for the springtime fixture at the Harbour Town Golf Links.
"I don't recall a time when any state official or elected official has put the energy and time and commitment behind making this happen as the governor has," Finchem said. "She has been on this 24/7 for a number of weeks. She wasn't going to take no for an answer."
News of the announcement rippled through the players at the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club. As the sense of urgency surrounding the sponsor search increased, players became more outspoken in their support of the event.
It was clear that PGA Tour officials got the message from the players, who both like the Lowcountry layout and understood what losing a tournament of its stature would mean.
"It's important because it's been played since 1969 and it has a list of great champions," said five-time Heritage winner Davis Love III.
"It's a great iconic course. It's one of the tour's favorites. This generation and the next generation of players will get to enjoy it. It would be sad to lose it. You'd hate to leave Hilton Head."
Finchem wouldn't disclose the financial commitment made by RBC and Boeing but said it was in line with most tour events, where title sponsorships range from $7 million to $8 million annually. RBC, which had representatives at the tournament in April, was able to leverage an extension of its sponsorship of the RBC Canadian Open in negotiations, a source said.
By bringing Boeing in as a presenting sponsor, the tournament will be tied in with the aerospace company that will be building planes near Charleston.
Two years ago, Verizon announced it was ending its 24-year sponsorship with the event, forcing officials to scramble. The Heritage Foundation tapped into its reserve funds to host the April event, won by Brandt Snedeker in a playoff over world No. 1 Luke Donald.
The tournament spent $4 million, Beaufort County contributed $1 million and the town of Hilton Head added another $1 million to keep the tournament alive in 2010. However, tournament director Steve Wilmot said in April the Heritage would be unable to continue without a sponsorship commitment.
In addition to RBC and Boeing, local companies will contribute to the event to help boost tourism.
According to an independent study by Clemson University in 2009, the Heritage has an annual direct economic impact of approximately $81 million on the Hilton Head area.
Rumors swirled in April about RBC's potential involvement. The company sponsors several tour players, including Donald, and officials were on site to study the event. As the tournament was ending, some fans could be heard chanting, "RBC, RBC" in reaction to rumors about the company's interest.
"It's probably one of my three favorite events," 2009 champion Jim Furyk said. "I would have hated to see that leave the schedule. The players love it."
For Haley, it was a big victory, capping months of work.
"There are very few times when you can go to a company and say, 'I need you' and they get it," Haley said.
"(RBC) came to the Heritage this year. You don't know it until you've lived it or seen it or felt it. They never said no. They said how can we get this done.
"God bless the Heritage. That's going to be one party next year."

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