Despite changes to the second half of this season’s PGA Tour, officials say the 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship is still slated to go on as scheduled.
The PGA released an updated schedule for the rest of the 2019-20 season, as well as the schedule for the 2020-21 season, which begins in the fall.
The Sanderson Farms tournament is penciled in for September 28 to October 4 at the Country Club of Jackson and is the fourth event of the season.
“Our date did not change. We were not impacted at all,” said Steve Jent, executive director of Century Club Charities, the nonprofit that runs the tournament.
The event is expected to draw 144 athletes, including some of the world’s top players. Last year, the championship drew several PGA notables, including Jason Dufner, Brant Snedeker, Zach Johnson and Kim Si-Woo.
Jent said officials are still planning the event but won’t know until closer to the start date how the coronavirus outbreak will affect it.
“We don’t know where we’ll be in five months, but there are some contingencies we will look at, like maybe having some additional anti-bacterial stations,” he said. “Social distancing rules and gathering numbers will dictate a lot of what we can do.
“I have not spoken to Gov. Tate Reeves at this time, but at this time there’s no point for me to with the tournament being five months away.”
Citing the coronavirus outbreak, numerous PGA events this spring were canceled or postponed, including the Masters Tournament and U.S. Open, both of which have been rescheduled for the fall.
The first events to reopen the 2020 season will be the Charles Schwab Challenge (June 8-14), the RBC Heritage (June 15-21), the Rocket Mortgage Classic (July 2-5) and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide (July 13-19).
All four will be played without spectators.
PGA spokesman Joel Schuchmann, said moving forward without fans was “the best way to go to ensure the best possible outcomes in terms of mitigating the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus.”
He said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, as well as local rules, would determine whether fans would be permitted at events after that.
“The health and safety of everyone associated with our events is our number one priority,” he said.
The PGA rarely bans spectators but have in the past in cases of inclement weather.
“One was during the third round of the 2012 AT&T National event, in Bethesda. We had a microburst Friday night and a ton of trees were down. Last year at an event in Japan, the Saturday was played without fans,” Schuchmann said. “It’s probably strange for the top golfers, who are used to having big crowds.”
Weather aside, Jent is hoping that COVID-19 will be long gone by the time the Sanderson Farms tournament rolls around.
“Our preference is to have crowds, because we’re putting on this event for the folks of Mississippi, so they can come and see the best golfers in the world,” he said.
“The golfers want it too. When they hit a great shot and the crowd cheers it kind of gets their blood pumping a little bit.”
About 30,000 people attend the Sanderson Farms tournament each year. According to a 2016 study, the event has an economic impact of more than $26 million.
The event itself is funded through corporate and individual sponsorships, as well as pro-am fees. However, admission fees, hospitality sales and merchandise sales, help determine how much Century Club can give to local charities.
Thanks to proceeds from the 2020 event, Century Club donated $1.3 million to Friends of the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital, and another $300,000 to between 35 and 40 local charities and nonprofits. Carl and Gigi Allen, tournament patrons, donated another $500,000 directly to the hospital itself. “The charitable impact was in excess of $2.1 million,” Jent said.
The championship has more than 150 corporate sponsors, who give $1,500 or more. Jent is not worried about sponsorships for the 2020 event drying up.
“We’ve had conversations with most of our sponsors and have not had anyone to drop,” he said. “We have some phenomenal sponsors who have been with us and understand what we’re trying to do. I’m expecting 2020 to be another really good year for us.”