Beaufort News

Work pays off with strong field for Heritage

As tournament week officially begins today, Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot finds himself taking on roles he has never had in 25 years working for the tournament.

He's as concerned with setting up tee times for businessmen as thinking about pairings for the pros, as worried about securing dinner reservations for VIPs as making sure the players have the necessary accommodations.

"I'm having to play travel agent like I never have before," Wilmot said Sunday. "We've got waves of people coming in this week. It's obviously positive or they wouldn't be coming."

Thus begins the most important week to date in the tournament's search for a title sponsor, and all interested parties on the premises are getting the full-court press from Wilmot and his staff this week at Harbour Town Golf Links.

It's not the first change of routine Wilmot has experienced in preparing for the 43rd annual Heritage. He made a trip to the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando last month on what essentially was a recruiting trip, asking some of the world's top players to make it a point to fit the Heritage into their schedule this year.

"I've never gone out there and recruited players," Wilmot said. "They either came or they didn't, and that's the way it was going to be."

But his work paid off with a strong field, including three of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings -- No. 3 Luke Donald, No. 6 Graeme McDowell and No. 10 Matt Kuchar -- as well as international stars Ernie Els, Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari.

Wilmot often says there are two things he can't control -- the players and the weather -- but he certainly seems to have influenced the former.

"It's a pretty daggone good field," Wilmot said. "And we're pleased with that."

That's not the only good news going into tournament week. All pro-am spots for today and Wednesday sold out long ago, and although ticket sales have leveled off recently, Wilmot said single-day tickets -- a new offer this year -- have picked up the past couple of weeks.

Wilmot hopes all those factors will add up to enticing one of the VIPs visiting Harbour Town this week to see the value of attaching his or her company's name to the Lowcountry's biggest sporting -- and social -- event.

"When we get to Sunday's broadcast, do I anticipate an announcement? I don't," Wilmot said. "We're not at that point, but there's a lot of discussion and a lot of interest."

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