Hole in One

By ANTHONY WARREN,

The Sanderson Farms Championship is under way, and even for the casual golf fan, the tournament has a lot to offer.

The tournament runs through September 22 at the Country Club of Jackson and features some of the biggest names in professional golf.

Qualifying rounds and pro-am events were earlier this week. Tournament play got under way today, Thursday, September 19.

Organizers say the tournament has something for everyone. Dedicated fans have the opportunity to see some of their favorite professional golfers from the PGA Tour, as well as up and coming golfers.

For casual observers, the tournament offers some of the best food and entertainment options.

“We want it to be an event for the die-hard and non-die-hard fans,” said Steve Jent, executive director of Century Club Charities. “We want everyone to come out and have a good time.”

About 30,000 people are expected to attend the event.

This year, first-responders and military personnel can enjoy a free lunch at the outpost on Hole 10. Patrons at the BankPlus fan pavilion at Hole 12 are being offered “premier concessions, a full cash bar and pretty good viewing on the 12th green,” Jent said.

For individuals who want to keep a check on their favorite football teams, the Pepsi Zero Zone next to the 18th fairway provides that opportunity. It features a “jumbotron showing football games (On Saturday, September 21, Ole Miss will be playing the University of California, while Mississippi State will face SEC foe Kentucky.),” as well as a children’s fun area. Visitors are also enjoying a party deck overlooking the fifth green and ninth tees.

“Everybody does a nice job making it a community event rather than an event just for those who follow golf,” Jent said.

avid golf fans have plenty to take in as well. In addition to seeing current PGA standouts, the championship ship offers visitors an opportunity to see some of the future stars on the PGA Tour. 

“The PGA just did a story about the top 10 rookies to watch. We have eight of them in our field,” Jent said. 

Rookies committed to the event include: Scottie Scheffler, Kristoffer Ventura, Harry Higgs, Doug Ghim, Maverick McNealy, Michael Gligic, Scott Harrington and Ben Taylor. All have recently been granted their PGA Tour cards, having coming off of successful runs on the lower Korn Ferry Tour.

  In all, the field includes 156 players, 24 more than the traditional 132.

“We have the golfers everyone knows and still quite a few opportunities for the up-and-coming (players) to be in our field,” said Jent.

Several current PGA standouts are taking the field this year,, including Brant Snedeker, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman and Kim Si-Woo.

Johnson won the 2007 Masters and the 2015 Open Championship, while Dufner won the 2013 PGA Championship. Snedeker was the 2007 PGA Rookie of the year and the 2012 FedEx Cup champion. Si-Woo won the 2017 Players Championship, the youngest to do so.

Former Sanderson Farms winners are competing as well, including Peter Malnati, the 2015 champion, Nick Taylor, the 2014 winner and Scott Stallings, who took home the Sanderson Farms rooster trophy in 2012.

The tournament is able to draw such participants, in part, because of its date change, its new status as a full-fledged PGA tournament and a significantly larger purse.

The championship is one of the earliest contests of the 2019-2020 PGA season, with the BMW PGA Championship slated for September 19 to 22 in Surrey, England.

“That’s just for this year,” Jent said.

This year, the winner will receive his share of a $6.6 million purse. The purse is the largest in championship history, and about $2 million larger than last year. Jent said larger payouts are standard with full-status PGA tourneys.

More important than the cash prize, though, is the automatic invitation the winner receives to compete in the Masters Tournament, a major championship on the PGA Tour.

“The way it works in Augusta (at the Augusta National Golf Club) is that if you win a full FedExCup points event, you get invited to the Masters,” he said. “We’re in the same boat as the Wyndham Championship and the Honda Classic.”

The Masters is held annually at Augusta.

This is the first year Sanderson Farms has had full points status.

Status aside, though, Jent said the ultimate goal of the championship is to raise money for charity.

Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital as well as other charities across the state.

Last year, Century Club gave Friends of Children’s Hospital $1.25 million. In all, the tournament has generated about $15 million in proceeds for the state’s only children’s hospital.

Jent said that fact alone should encourage people to buy a ticket.

“It’s a Mississippi event; 170,000 kids, from every county in the state are treated at Batson every year,” he said. “Our tournament benefits everyone from Southaven to Ocean Springs.” 

For more information, log onto www.sandersonfarmschampionship.com.

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