Q&A With Steve Wilmot, Tournament Director of The Heritage Classic Foundation
Author: Paula Magrini | Photographer: John Brackett
CH2: So who exactly is the major sponsor for this year’s tournament? Is it the Town of Hilton Head?
Steve Wilmot: The Heritage Classic Foundation is the major sponsor. We have committed four million of our reserve dollars. The Town of Hilton Head and Beaufort County pledged $1 million each in order for us to secure our spot on the 2011 PGA TOUR calendar.
CH2: Any other local businesses who are big sponsors?
SW: Hargray, CoastalStates Bank, Charter One Realty, CareCore, TidePointe, Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, The Westin, The Hilton, Long Cove Club, Sea Pines Country Club, Savannah/Hilton Head Airport, Adventure Radio, WJCL/WTGS, The Cypress, Palmetto Electric, Pertnear Productions, Mullin and Wylie, Greenwood Communities and Resorts, Wild Wing Café, May River Club, Callawassie and Berkeley Hall.
CH2: Why was the tournament moved back a week this year? If the Heritage had a title sponsor at the time, would it have kept its original dates?
SW: More than likely we would have still been asked to move. It was an issue with the calendar and TV network coverage—there is an extra week between The Masters and The Players.
CH2: So, if CH2 wanted to sponsor next year’s Heritage (hey, it could happen!) what is the exact dollar amount we would need to put up? We have heard everything from 7 to 10 million dollars. And what exactly does a title sponsor receive for that investment?
SW: You have heard everything from $7 to $10 million because that is what it is. The base price for the 64 TV ads and the purse is $7 million. More dollars are added to that base price, depending on what a title sponsor wants to do during the tournament (pro-am spots, tickets, skyboxes).
CH2: Governor Haley just announced in a press conference last week that she is going to find a sponsor for this tournament. Is the PGA TOUR also helping us find a sponsor?
SW: We have a PGA TOUR employee who is dedicated to finding The Heritage a title sponsor. It is his job. I speak with him almost every day.
CH2: Speaking in publisher’s terms, what is the “drop-dead date” we need to have a sponsor by to have a tournament in 2012?
SW: We do have a deadline, but it is not the time to be talking about it. It could change if we are in the middle of talking to a potential title sponsor.
CH2: Let’s switch gears and talk about fun stuff now. What’s new this year? It looks like the one-day passes are back.
SW: We haven’t had daily tickets in about 15 years. We talked to the community, and they let us know they wanted them, so we thought it was the right time to bring them back. We hope to attract some young fans who may not be able to take multiple days off of work. Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine is hosting the Grey Goose Lounge for us this year. Anyone over 21 years old with a tournament ticket can enter the tent on the 18th fairway and enjoy a vodka and appetizer pairing prepared by Chef Irvine. Sir William Innes will be back again, but this year you’ll be seeing him in some unexpected places. He is also heading up a “Plaid about Reading” program, available at all elementary schools in Beaufort County.
CH2: If you had to pick someone to win the tournament today, who would you pick? Don’t be a politician—just give us a name!
SW: Too many great guys and players to pick!
CH2: What is your all-time favorite Heritage memory?
SW: There are so many! But one that will always stick out is going out with Payne Stewart for a few drinks one night!
CH2: What is the ratio of locals to visitors who attend? Obviously it changes—what was it last year?
SW: Approximately 58 percent of our sales are from South Carolina with 38 percent coming from Beaufort County.