Beaufort News

Heritage officials shoot down sponsor rumors

Workers with the Heritage Classic Foundation take a break while packing up the tournament office Monday afternoon at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Workers with the Heritage Classic Foundation take a break while packing up the tournament office Monday afternoon at Harbour Town Golf Links. Sarah Welliver/The Island Packet

Heritage organizers denied a report Monday that Royal Bank of Canada is "close" to signing a four-year deal to sponsor the golf tournament.

Golf World reported Monday that the bank is likely to "ride to the rescue" in the coming days.

The report cited several unnamed players and sources related to Hilton Head Island's 43-year-old PGA Tour event, which has been without a title sponsor for more than a year.

Tournament director Steve Wilmot said RBC has been a prospective sponsor, but he urged people not to believe the latest report.

"It's not true," Wilmot said.

Such scuttlebutt could hurt the tournament if other companies think a deal has been made, he said.

"It's hurting us because we're engaged with so many companies," Wilmot said. "We're not in negotiations with any of them."

There won't be an announcement "in the near future," he said.

Wilmot said he heard speculation during last week's tournament that companies, including RBC, were poised to sponsor the tournament.

The speculation was so rampant that several people, including players' caddies, approached Wilmot to congratulate him and say they heard the tournament had a sponsor.

"My response to them is, 'If you know something I don't, please let me know,'<2009>" Wilmot said.

RBC officials also downplayed the rumor, according to Rick Young of Canadian golf publication SCORE Golf.

Young asked an RBC spokesman about the Heritage sponsorship and posted the bank's response on Twitter: "We are looking at things all the time, nothing concrete to report from this past week."

RBC already is title sponsor of the PGA Tour's Canadian Open.

The bank's deal with that tournament runs through 2012, and the two sides are negotiating to extend the relationship, Canadian Open spokesman Dan Pino said.

RBC had no other ties to golf when it took over title sponsorship of the Canadian event in November 2007, but it has since increased its commitment to the sport, the Canadian Press reported in January.

The bank now funds Ganada's high-performance amateur team and the country's national amateur championship, and has created a program to help young Canadian pros, the Press reported.

The bank, whose website touts its support of "historic tournaments," also is the official bank of The PGA of America, The PGA Championship and The Senior PGA Championship, and a supporter of The Ryder Cup.

The bank sponsors a stable of players, including 2010 Heritage champion Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar, Anthony Kim, Mike Weir, Stephen Ames, Luke Donald, Fred Couples and women's star Morgan Pressel. PGA Tour officials declined to comment.