After three years without growth, RBC Heritage increases size of its purse

ccox@islandpacket.comApril 18, 2013 

The PGA Tour never pushed the issue with the RBC Heritage over the last several years, even as the tournament spent two anxious years in search of a new title sponsor.

For the past three years, the Heritage's purse stood still at $5.7 million, with $1.026 million being paid out to the winner. That constant figure followed what was 17 consecutive years of steady increases.

But now that the Royal Bank of Canada has latched on to preserve the Heritage's fate for at least the next few years, the PGA Tour has asked once again for the tournament's purse to be raised. The purse will increase $100,000 this year to $5.8 million, with the winner's payout increasing by $18,000 to $1.044 million.

"To be honest with you, we weren't keeping up with the Joneses, if you know what I mean," tournament director Steve Wilmot said. "The tour was understanding of our situation, and certainly not having a title sponsor one year and starting with a new sponsor, they worked with us in keeping the purse" the same.

The Heritage purse lands the tournament comfortably in the middle third among comparable PGA Tour events. That excludes majors, World Golf Championship events, the Players Championship, the Tour Championship and lesser PGA Tour events held at the same time as a major or WGC event.

"It's important for us to keep up with the purses with the other tournaments," Wilmot said. "We're not at the top, but we certainly like to be close to the top third or so. You can look at other events and there's certainly many events that are above us."

The PGA Tour requires the Heritage to raise its purse each year but relaxed those contractual requirements after Verizon departed as the title sponsor following the 2010 tournament. With RBC and Boeing now in their second year as sponsors, however, the tour once again asked that the purse be raised.

Wilmot did not rule out RBC approaching the Heritage in the future with a significant boost to the purse in mind.

"If for some reason the title sponsor comes to us and truly says, 'Hey, we'd like to make an impact, or a bigger splash,' we would certainly entertain that and look at it," he said.

But golfers flock to the Lowcountry for much more than the purse, which is more important at other events than the RBC Heritage, Wilmot said. Harbour Town Golf Links was voted by players as their second-favorite course on the tour in a survey conducted last year by Golf World.

"It's amazing when we're talking to these guys now and the likes of the Graeme McDowell's and the Luke Donalds," Wilmot said. "Yes, they're gearing up and they're looking toward (the Masters). But they look at the unwind week, a great venue, a great community and a great tournament with a great history.

"Being able to unwind and relax. It's a different atmosphere than a lot of tournaments. These guys are riding bikes, walking to the beach, renting beach homes and they've got boats."

And if the winner of this year's RBC Heritage doesn't have a boat, maybe he'll use the $1.044 million he earns to get one.

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