Beaufort News

Heritage, Legends officials say shared week not a problem

Peek into the temporary Heritage tournament office in the parking lot at Harbour Town Golf Links, and the chances of catching tournament director Steve Wilmot are small.

Wilmot, who sprang from place to place Tuesday to attend various events, had little time to think about anything outside his tournament. It wasn't until someone mentioned Liberty Mutual, the title sponsor of the Legends of Golf event in Savannah this week, that Wilmot remembered the Champions Tour event was going on.

After the initial announcement the Heritage and Legends of Golf would play the same week in the same market, officials on both sides worried. But as the tournament drew closer, each tournament's director saw the differences in the events, the different fans each would draw and decided the ill effects of both events falling the same week would be minimal.

Wilmot said the questions about whether this could be the final year for Hilton Head Island's tournament, which is without a title sponsor, has created a different buzz for the Heritage. He said the arrangement only being an issue this year makes it easier to deal with. The Heritage, if it continues in 2012, is slated to return to its normal spot on the schedule.

"We're on the schedule," Wilmot said. "That's the most important thing. And we'll make the best of it."

The Heritage, traditionally the week after the Masters, slipped back a week after the Valero Texas Open successfully lobbied for its spot on the schedule. The move meant the Heritage would fill the same week as the Legends of Golf, a unique Champions Tour event held at The Club at Savannah Harbor.

In previous years, each event received the full treatment from television and local media. Officials say there are few other conflicts other than sharing coverage.

Champions Tour president Mike Stevens, a former Heritage tournament director, placed a positive spin on the schedule.

"If I'm a golf fan, I want to be here," he said. "I don't think you're ever going to see again in this close proximity the greatest players who have ever played the game of golf and the greatest players who will ever play the game of golf in one location, where a golf fan can literally, within 40 minutes, drive to both locations very easily."

Wilmot said there was little crossover among the events for tickets, volunteers and sponsors. The tournament directors met earlier in the year for cross-promotion in a market the tournaments seem to share, the residents of Sun City in Okatie.

Other than that, there has been little overlap, other than each side expressing support for the other.

"It's great for all of us from the standpoint of, when the TV goes on, it's the best of golf from the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour in the Lowcountry," Wilmot said.