HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - It's a tournament with a rich tradition and on Monday the 42nd Verizon Heritage Golf Tournament began with a bang as the defending champion Brian Gay hit the opening shot with the cannon fired.
While there's a lot of excitement in the air, this is also a very important year for the tournament as the search continues for a new title sponsor now that Verizon has stepped down.
"There's a lot of balls in the air," said tournament director Steve Wilmot. "I feel like I should be in the circus as a juggler, but I feel good about what we have because we do have something very special."
"This is a very important year for our golf tournament," said Bill Miles, Hilton Head Island - Bluffton Chamber of Commerce CEO. "We think a lot of things are lining up for a great week of golf, a great week of being able to expose Hilton Head not only nationally but internationally as week. As we search for that sponsor for next year's tournament, we think the showcase this year is going to be pretty spectacular."
Part of what makes this tournament so great is the community and this year countless volunteers have stepped up.
"This year we've seen the community come together like no other year before realizing the significance , the importance, well the history of this great tournament," said Miles.
With this tournament pumping millions of dollars in the local economy and putting Hilton Head Island in the spotlight, the success of this year's tournament is crucial.
"The discussion and the shots that are shown during the tournament are seen around the world , you just can't buy that kind of marketing," said Hilton Head Island mayor Tom Peeples.
While Mother Nature is on their side this week, they're asking everyone to do their part.
"Get your plaid on, continue the momentum so we can go forward and get have this event for the future," said Wilmot.
"Come out and support us for this tournament, buy tickets, be engaged, enjoy it," said Peeples. "Be part of the gallery. It's lots of fun, the weather will be fantastic and the better face we put on in our community here in this tournament, the better we'll look for that next sponsor."
Wilmot says he has a meeting with the Player Advisory Committee this week concerning the future of the tournament.