RBC Heritage golf tournament tees off with tradition

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RBC Heritage golf tournament tees off with tradition

Hilton Head's Harbour Town welcomes new sponsors
By TOM BARTON
tbarton@islandpacket.com
Published Monday, April 9, 2012   |  663 Words  |  

The sponsors are new, but care was taken to preserve old ways during Monday's opening ceremonies of South Carolina's only PGA Tour event.

Adhering to tradition, the 2012 RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing kicked off with a deafening cannon boom that caused defending champion Brandt Snedeker to flinch as he struck a ceremonial tee shot into Calibogue Sound from near the 18th green at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Dignitaries -- including Gov. Nikki Haley; U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; and Hilton Head Island Mayor Drew Laughlin -- were on hand to celebrate the tournament's rebirth under new sponsors, Royal Bank of Canada and Boeing.

RBC signed a five-year title sponsorship after last year's tournament, which was played without one, and Boeing signed on as a presenting sponsor, also for five years.

"A year ago, the future of this tradition was unknown," tournament honorary chairman Ward Kirby said. "We were not sure it would be here today. But through the efforts of so many people, today, we are celebrating. ... We want our sponsors to know their decisions were well-made. And this community, this area and this state welcome them and hope to make them feel right at home for many, many years to come."

The June announcement ended a nearly two-year search for a replacement for previous title sponsor Verizon. Help in the search came from players like Snedeker, who wooed corporate guests and potential sponsors on the tee box and at the dinner table.

"We went to the PGA Tour ... and called (tournament director) Steve (Wilmot) all the time when we were here last year, to entertain guests and potential sponsors ... whatever we could do as players to make this tournament possible," Snedeker said. "When you come down here and see how many fans come out, (see) the support from the local community and what a big deal this is for the state of South Carolina -- and also to have a great golf course and resort like Sea Pines to show off -- it's pretty unbelievable. You see how special this tournament is."

In a January Golf World survey, PGA Tour players ranked Harbour Town second behind Augusta National as their favorite course on the Tour. Snedeker said he and other players have become enamored with the tournament because of its "old school" course and the way golf often mixes with relaxation and fan-friendly fun.

RBC president and CEO Gordon Nixon thanked Haley and Laughlin for their commitment to the tournament, saying RBC is "proud to celebrate and be a part of one of the country's most renowned and prestigious tournaments."

Nixon compared the Heritage to the Canadian Open, which RBC also helped rescue after it lost its sponsor about five years ago.

"We invested heavily in it, and it represents a great history and tradition in Canada, and to some degree, the Heritage was a bit like that," he said. "It's a wonderful tournament in one of the most beautiful locations. The players love it. It would have been such a shame for the tournament not to continue to thrive. We wanted to invest in it going forward, so it can become an even better and more exciting tournament."

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