The first mandate Gov. Nikki Haley gave her new Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism director was to find a corporate sponsor for the Heritage Classic golf tournament in Hilton Head.
“She asks me about this every time I see her,” says Duane Parrish. “We’re at the point now where we have several companies interested…That will turn into a sponsor, I truly believe, within the next 30 to 60 days.”
“It may not be the traditional one-company sponsor. It may be the ABC Heritage, presented by XYZ. It could be something in some other shape or form,” Parrish said, adding, “To use the phrase the governor has, ‘Can’t is not an option.'”
Parrish, who comes from the hotel industry, says that means getting creative in presenting a package beyond the traditional sponsorship:
Think of all the great events we have here in the state, some golf-related, some not. The PGA Championship in 2012 in Charleston, the Darlington Raceway, Spoleto, the BMW Championship Pro-Am in the Upstate. We think we can put together a package of things outside of just the Heritage and Sea Pines and Hilton Head to incentive an organization to come and do that.
Steve Wilmot, the tournament director, is more cautious in his optimism. He says if they find a sponsor this close to the event, that sponsor can have the first year for free. “It’s the best deal in golf,” says Wilmot. Listen to Wilmot’s Sports Talk interview
Wilmot says the governor and her cabinet have been great to work with, but is concerned about other states trying to take that PGA tournament slot away from South Carolina. Parrish says the PGA has bent over backward to help the tournament stay alive and may grant an extension to their May 1 deadline to find a financial partner.