HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — RBC Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot doesn't want to return to the dark, sponsor-less days of just a few years ago when his longtime PGA Tour stop didn't know if it would make it through to the next year. So everyone connected with the event is making sure that won't happen.
New construction on a $20 million clubhouse at Harbour Town Golf Links started shortly after Matt Kuchar's chip-in on the 72nd hole lifted him to victory Sunday. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was there early in the week to participate in discussions with lead sponsors Royal Bank of Canada and Boeing to extend backing past the five-year deal that ends in 2016.
There are new parking strategies ahead to help beautify the island that were tested this past week when rain swamped many of the grassy, field areas where spectators and volunteers have parked practically since the tournament began in 1969.
And there's a new luxury hotel ahead for the grounds to help increase the number of clients and officials sponsors might entertain during tournament week.
"Sea Pines is making a commitment and obviously the Tour has to be in," Wilmot said. "And then then sponsors. But it's better than when it was a 'no.'"
That came before the 2010 tournament when longtime event sponsor Verizon announced it was ending its ties to the tournament. A search for sponsorship went beyond the 2011 event when the Heritage Classic Foundation had to spend some $4 million in reserve funds along with about $1 million in local government help keep things going that year.
In June of 2011, the tour, state and federal leaders and Wilmot's organization announced the deal that brought in RBC, which has long sponsored golf, and Boeing, which had recently opened a major manufacturing facility about two hours north of the course.
Things have gone well the past three years. But the island facility knew it faced challenges to keep pace with some of the larger country clubs and made-for-TV golf facilities that host PGA Tour events.
The new clubhouse, which has been there since the tournament began 45 years ago, will increase from 11,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet and have room for 150 full-size lockers. There will also be an art gallery to display oil portraits of RBC Heritage champions through the years, a new restaurant and expanded pro shop among other amenities.
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