HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Defending RBC Heritage champion Brandt Snedeker wasn’t sure he’d have a title to defend this year.
However, he was at Harbour Town Golf Links on Monday celebrating the first year of the formerly cash-strapped tournament’s new association with backers Royal Bank of Canada and the Boeing Co.
“This place has always been special,” he said.
For a while, it looked like Snedeker might be the last golfer to slip on the Heritage’s signature plaid winner’s jacket and hoist the trophy on the 18th hole, framed with the red
-and-white striped lighthouse.
The tournament had sought corporate support for nearly two years since longtime backer Verizon announced it was leaving after the 2010 event. The Heritage Classic Foundation used all its reserve funds to stage last year’s tournament, tournament director Steve Wilmot said.
That event was won by Snedeker in a three-hole playoff over world No. 1 Luke Donald.
A few days later, Snedeker realized how fragile the Heritage’s financial status was when he saw his smiling face on the cover of a golf magazine with the words “Uncertain Future” as the headline.
“It scared me,” he said.
Snedeker joined a group of pros who worked with Wilmot to find sponsors who would keep the event alive. Snedeker said he and others called PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and other tour leaders to make sure they knew how important Harbour Town was to the players.
“I think the tour had never run into that kind of support for a tournament before,” Snedeker said.
In June, Wilmot, Finchem, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and others announced that the RBC had stepped in as the title sponsor and that Boeing would be the local presenting the sponsor.
The two will underwrite about all of the $8 million Wilmot has said was necessary to stage the event. The agreements last through 2016.
Jim Little, RBC’s brand and communication officer, said his institution was proud to partner with the Heritage.
“You can feel the energy that’s coming back to the tournament,” he said.