April anticipation: RBC Heritage officials all smiles for media day

Uncertainty of 2011 event gives way to optimism, praise for course

mmccombs@islandpacket.comFebruary 27, 2012 

What a difference a year makes.

"We're approaching the 12th hour," RBC Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot said on media day 2011. "There is a sense of urgency here."

Almost 12 months later, Wilmot could joke about it.

"I'll take you back to last year," Wilmot said during Monday's media day for the 2012 RBC Heritage. "The night before media day we ate at Huddle House. Last night, we ate at CQ's."

When asked two years ago, Wilmot said the Heritage would go on in 2011 despite a lack of a sponsor. By last year's tournament, the answers weren't as concrete or as positive.

Then in June, the Royal Bank of Canada stepped in to become the sponsor, along with junior sponsor Boeing.

As a result, at Monday's gathering of the media, Wilmot had an entirely different outlook.

"There was a lot of concern that the event wasn't even going to be here," Wilmot said. "We're excited about this relationship, we're excited about RBC, we're excited about Boeing."

Even defending champion Brandt Snedeker had thoughts that with his playoff victory over Luke Donald last year, he could have been the last Heritage winner.

"It scared me to think about that," Snedeker said.

The Vanderbilt product who won earlier this season at Torrey Pines, said he remembered players calling PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and asking, "What do we need to do?"

"I think the tour had never run into that kind of support for a tournament before," Snedeker said.

Wilmot only reinforced that idea when he cited the results of a survey by Golf World. The magazine polled players on their favorite courses to play on the PGA Tour.

"It's something that is a compliment to everyone here," Wilmot said. "... In my eyes we finished first. They ranked all the tournaments on the PGA Tour. Augusta was one, we were two."

Snedeker said Harbour Town has become really special to him. He explained why he thought players were drawn to the course.

"The same score wins every year ... between 12- and 18-under par, depending on the weather and how the course is playing," Snedeker said. "It's a testament to how great this golf course is, how well it's designed for the land that it has. Players love coming here because it tests every shot in your bag. You have to drive the ball well. You have to hit your irons well. You have to chip the ball well. You have to putt it well. There's no real way to get around without doing those things well."

He also pointed out the contrast created by the tournament's traditional spot on the PGA Tour schedule, a week after the Masters at Augusta National.

"You've got the Masters, where there's so much tension and so much stress for 72 holes and then you come to a place like this that's so relaxing."

If, like Snedeker, the players are excited the tournament will remain, officials from RBC and Boeing were just as excited.

"If you look at something like the Heritage, you see the history, the importance to South Carolina, the quality of the event," said Jack Jones, general manager and vice president of Boeing South Carolina. "It made it real easy to step up and say, 'Yeah, we'd like to participate.' "

"We're excited about this relationship," said Jim Little, Chief Brand and Communications Officer for RBC. "We look forward to building this tournament even more."

And as long as they're building it, Snedeker joked he'll come.

"I'll play the Masters and I might come play here again, I don't know," he said smiling.

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