Focus Heritage efforts on likely path to success

The push to come up with some way, any way, to keep the Heritage golf tournament on Hilton Head Island after 2011 must be tempered with reality.

The PGA Tour will make the call on title sponsorship, and it is signaling what will and won't work. So, too, is Gov. Nikki Haley, who couldn't be clearer that she doesn't want to see state money go toward sponsoring the tournament, particularly long term.

Those floating the idea of multiple sponsorships, rather than a single title sponsor, should listen to tour officials, who have said a single title sponsor and a pool of smaller sponsors is preferable. They have found that more reliably maximizes the amount of money an event can raise for charity.

It certainly makes contract negotiations simpler and increases the value -- and prestige -- of a title sponsorship.

The idea of levying a sales tax to raise money for tournament sponsorship also probably isn't going anywhere, especially one contingent on a referendum. That's a pretty shaky foundation on which to build a business plan. State Rep. Andy Patrick of Hilton Head is right to put that idea back in his pocket -- and keep it there.

We should keep our eye on the prize of a single corporate title sponsor. To that end, a meeting Tuesday that included Hilton Head officials, Beaufort County legislators, Heritage Classic Foundation representatives, state commerce and tourism officials and Haley, with PGA Tour representatives on the phone, is promising.

A coordinated effort, with big momentum behind it and key state resources to help, is the way to go.

Town manager Steve Riley, who attended the meeting, said state officials were asked whether agencies with promotional budgets could buy TV ads during the tournament.

That is something they should consider. A tournament staged on Hilton Head in April is a great venue for promoting South Carolina and would be a good use of state dollars designated for that purpose.

We should do all we can to secure the Heritage's future, but we must focus our efforts in a way most likely to bring success. That means a coordinated effort with a clear understanding of what will attract a sponsor willing to spend $7 million to $9 million and what will meet PGA Tour approval.