Verizon pulls out of Heritage tournament

(Reported by Claire Beverly of SCRN affiliate, Adventure Radio Group
Hilton Head, SC / Savannah, GA)

Verizon has announced that after 22 years, they will not be renewing as the title sponsor for the Heritage Golf Tournament after 2010, saying that they are restructuring their overall involvement with the Professional Golf Association (PGA).
Heritage Tournament Director Steve Wilmot says it was somewhat of a surprise, but not a big one. ” We had hoped right after the tournament last year that we would get into negotiations, which we did to sign a new contract, which we did, but there were a couple of red flags thrown up over the summer.”
The Heritage Classic Foundation and the PGA have already begun the search for a new title sponsor, which Wilmot says should be easier now that Verizon has officially made the announcement.
Wilmot says, “Now that it’s public, that short list becomes a long list. We were contractually obligated under our contract withVerizon not to speak to anyone else, but I have been out on the streets and attending the last several PGA Tour events and working with the tour and their tentacles and reach is an international reach.”
Since Verizon began its sponsorship as MCI in 1987, The Heritage Classic Foundation has distributed nearly $20 million to charities throughout South Carolina and Georgia. Wilmot says while the college scholarships they have awarded will not be affected, local businesses and charities rely heavily on the tournament.
Wilmot says, “Our scholarships are covered throughout the existence of those students but it’s the economic impact to this community and the Lowcountry and this region that is tremendous–close to $100 million. The byproduct of that has been giving back to charity, so there is a win-win-win out there. Should the event ever go away it would be a huge impact to this economy.” 
The Verizon Heritage has been a popular fixture on the PGA TOUR since 1969 and Harbour Town Golf Links is recognized as one of the players’ favorite courses.