Verizon to leave Harbour Town after ’10

On the eve of the Tour Championship in Atlanta, commissioner Tim Finchem did what corporate CEOs do often of late for Wall Street: Guide expectations down.

In light of the recession, Finchem told his audience it would be unlikely the PGA Tour could go unscathed and predicted sponsorship turnover in the near future – which turned out to be all of seven days.

This afternoon, the Tour announced that Verizon will not renew as title sponsor of the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links after its contract expires following the 2010 event. Verizon has been the tournament’s sponsor since 1987, initially as MCI.

During Verizon’s tenure, the tournament, held in Hilton Head Island, S.C., has distributed nearly $20 million to charities in South Carolina and Georgia.

Said Becky Carr, senior vice president of marketing for Verizon Business: “Although we’ve enjoyed an outstanding partnership with the Heritage, we decided that given the global scope of our business, it made sense to restructure our future involvement with the PGA Tour to focus on select PGA Tour events that will provide Verizon Business with more opportunities for business development throughout the year.”

Verizon’s continued involvement is good news for the Tour, but it also means it’ll immediately begin a full-time search for a new title sponsor. The latter is a scenario the Tour could face with unwanted frequency, considering several of its title sponsorship contracts expire after 2010. The only other title sponsor to publicly announce it would not renew after 2010 is FBR, which supports the popular Tour stop in Phoenix.

Thus far, however, the Tour has had success with several contract extensions, including the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Travelers Championship.

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