Beaufort News

Positive about plaid

Maybe he was just caught up in the momentum of the day, as tournament representatives and government officials alike spoke about the importance of finding a title sponsor during opening ceremonies for the 43rd annual Heritage golf tournament, but defending champion Jim Furyk came away from the kickoff event with the feeling that he won't be the last player to fire a ceremonial opening tee shot into Calibogue Sound.

"I hear a lot of positive comments," Furyk said. "I hear, 'We've got to get this done,' and, 'It will get done,' and I think I have a positive outlook on it, as well."

Much of that rhetoric Monday came from Duane Parrish, the recently installed director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, who insisted the state will do its part to ensure the tournament finds a sponsor. Congressman Joe Wilson and Hilton Head Mayor Drew Laughlin also spoke about the community's efforts to keep the tournament.

But local and state officials aren't the only ones saying the right thing, Furyk said. The PGA Tour is also optimistic.

"They were very positive when they spoke to us as players," Furyk said. "But to come out here and see this community and see the foundation, the mayor, the congressman, it makes me feel good to be part of the PGA Tour. This event has had such a positive impact on this community. I guess what I didn't realize was how much of an impact it has on the state of South Carolina."

In hopes of continuing that impact, officials from the tournament and the PGA Tour plan to pitch the sponsorship role to several companies this week. Tournament director Steve Wilmot said he has had productive talks each of the past two days, and he's praying for "Mother Nature and a great leaderboard" to help make his job as salesman easier.

"Hopefully one of (the potential sponsors) gets very, very excited," Furyk said. "I know they've been in talks with many different possible sponsors and had some close calls, but hopefully someone this week will get really interested when they see the value."

The Heritage has enjoyed acclaim as a favorite stop among many PGA Tour players, something that is reflected in its rich history, which includes an impressive list of champions such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Hale Irwin, to name a few.

It's that history, Furyk said, that would make it such a shame to see the Heritage fall off the PGA Tour schedule.

"It's one of our longest-standing events, and one the players would dearly miss," Furyk said. "I know the PGA Tour is working very hard and diligently on working with the tournament itself and the state of South Carolina.

"We love it here, and it's an event we don't want to lose," Furyk said.

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