David Lauderdale

All of Hilton Head has reason to be proud of Heritage tournament

Media day at the Heritage is when the inmates take over the asylum.

It's when the writers are invited in ahead of the PGA Tour event on Hilton Head Island to get the news and play the course. In a few weeks, they'll express dismay when professional golfers can't hit it to within five feet from 205 yards. On Monday, they couldn't hit it to within five feet from 100 yards without first banging it off three trees and two houses.

Harbour Town Golf Links head pro John Farrell explained the rules of the day, knowing his audience was too busy eating free food to listen to him. He joked that the economic impact of media day continues to be zero.

Economic impact was the hot topic this year. Everyone is afraid the $82 million economic impact of the Heritage might disappear because it has no title sponsor.

PGA Tour vice president Ty Votaw used that figure several times during his remarks Monday. He said not many tournaments have that much economic impact on their communities. He said it is an important indicator of community support.

He also praised the support from the state, county and town officials. He spoke of the tournament's rich history, its backdrop of the Harbour Town Lighthouse, its Pete Dye course, and the great hospitality the players, their wives and the PGA Tour staff receive on Hilton Head. He said it is "one of the most special tournaments we have across all three tours."

With all that, he could be only "cautiously optimistic" a title sponsor would be found.

"Time will tell," Votaw said. He wouldn't specify how much time, but it's not much.

Islanders can control what happens with a title sponsor about as much as a newspaper hack can control a 4-iron into the wind.

But what we can control is the spirit of the Heritage.

It's a spirit that aims high. In 1969, a small community invited the world to its door without even enough rooms in the inn to hold them. And they came, and they enjoyed it, and it grew beyond anyone's imagination into a huge party -- with economic impact.

It's a spirit that pushes us to put our best foot forward, spruce up, fix up, plant flowers, buy new clothes, invite company to town, socialize, and maybe even turn off the phone for a few hours.

It's a spirit that makes us work harder and volunteer more. It helps our businesses. It helps charities -- more than $20 million since 1987.

Together, we've always made this impossible dream come true.

Whether the tournament stays or goes, we can still be everything they say they love about the Heritage.

Nobody can take the Heritage spirit away from us -- except ourselves.

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