Beaufort News

Politicians, Heritage officials talking with prospects for title sponsorship

Heritage organizers and South Carolina politicians reportedly have been wooing several potential title sponsors for the state's only PGA Tour event, which got under way Thursday.

Public officials and tournament organizers, however, have been tight-lipped about what companies might be interested in sponsoring the Heritage.

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., met Thursday in the Harbour Town Golf Links clubhouse with tournament director Steve Wilmot and Heritage Classic Foundation chairman Simon Fraser to discuss the search.

DeMint, who made a public appearance at the Technical College of the Lowcountry in Beaufort earlier in the day, said he is "cautiously optimistic they'll come up with a marquee sponsor" and that organizers have "good prospects."

"There's several potential sponsors that are here, and I just wanted to be here to let them know the whole South Carolina political establishment is going to be very supportive of this tournament," DeMint said after his meeting with Wilmot and Fraser. "We're certainly not at liberty to mention any names right now."

DeMint said that although he's not directly involved in negotiations, he wants to assure potential sponsors that public officials will cooperate with them and listen to their state and federal legislative needs.

"There's no question (sponsorship of this tournament) is a good value," DeMint added. "I come from the marketing business, and this is a good marketing value."

DeMint's presence Thursday continued the full-court press that also has involved U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., both of whom played in Wednesday's Heritage pro-am. Gov. Nikki Haley also is expected to spend several days at the tournament.

The tournament and PGA Tour officials seek a replacement for Verizon, which ended its long-running sponsorship when its contract expired after the 2010 Heritage.

The Heritage secured a spot on the PGA Tour's schedule this year without a title sponsor by pledging all $4 million of its reserves and securing $1 million commitments from both the Town of Hilton Head and Beaufort County.

Tour officials have said it's imperative the Heritage find a sponsor to secure its future, but tournament organizers do not have a deadline, Wilmot said Friday.

Columnist David Lauderdale and reporter Kyle Peterson contributed to this report.