The Country Club of Jackson will step into the spotlight Sept. 27-Oct. 3 as the site of the Sanderson Farms Championship, the state’s only PGA Tour event.
The championship is expected to draw as many as 30,000 spectators, who come to see for themselves how the event that draws some of golf’s biggest names unfolds.
Special events including the John Soules Foods Pro-Am on Sept. 27, the Women’s Day luncheon featuring keynote speaker Katherine Wolf on Sept. 28 and the Allen Exploration Pro-Am on Sept. 29 add to the tournament’s attraction.
“Mississippi State University did an economic impact study in 2016 and it showed the economic impact is close to $30 million a year,” said Steve Jent, executive director of the championship.
“That includes hotels, restaurants, rental cars, miscellaneous jobs we have, things we rent and servers and waiters in restaurants that may staff up for the tournament. We think the economic impact is probably greater now than it was in 2016. It’s probably time to do another study…maybe next year when we have COVID-19 behind us.”
Sergio Garcia, the 2020 champion, is returning to compete among the field of 144 players. Major winners Webb Simpson (U.S. Open 2012), Gary Woodland (U.S. Open 2019), Zach Johnson (Masters 2007, The Open Championship 2015), Jimmy Walker (PGA Championship 2016) and Lucas Glover (U.S. Open 2009) will join Garcia.
Tournament champions Sebastián Muñoz (2019) Ryan Armour (2017), Cody Gribble (2016), Peter Malnati (2015), Nick Taylor (2014), Scott Stallings (2012), Chris Kirk (2011) and Bill Haas (2010, FedExCup 2011) have committed.
Also expected are 2011 FedExCup Champion Brandt Snedeker, 2017 Players Champion Si Woo Kim, and 2021 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Will Zalatoris.
Joining with a special tournament exemption is 2019 U.S. Amateur Champion Andy Ogletree, a Mississippian, recent graduate of Georgia Tech and a member of the victorious 2019 Walker Cup Team.
John Decker of Jackson looks forward to watching the pros and enjoying the welcoming atmosphere of the tournament.
“This year it seems like they’re going to have great players, really awesome players,” said Decker, a former Country Club of Jackson president. “The field is strong.”
Decker, a Country Club of Jackson resident, has attended the championship every year it’s been held at the country club.
“We have to get passes to get into the neighborhood because of security, but it’s fun for the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the build out with all the tents.”
Details contribute to making the event a success, Jent said, and that means considering everything from the uniforms that volunteers wear to the layout of the hospitality rooms to the location of portable restrooms.
“There are so many people who have a piece in making this a successful event,” Jent said. “Stanley Reedy is the superintendent at the country club, and they do things all year long to get ready. I have six full-time employees and we spend our occupations focused on details for this week. It’s all so our fans can have a great experience.”
About 800 volunteers also contribute to the event’s success by providing gallery management and making sure that spectators are quiet and respectful while competition is under way, serving as ball spotters who pay attention to where a pro’s golf ball lands, assisting caddies and handling other tasks, said Kacie Lindsley, volunteer coordinator for the championship.
Volunteers come from throughout the state and outside Mississippi, with some from as far away as Indiana, she said.
“We have a chunk of volunteers who have been doing this for 20 plus years who love the atmosphere, love coming to the Country Club of Jackson and love that we’re about raising money for Children’s Hospital,” she said. “A lot of our volunteers come through the University of Mississippi Medical Center and we get a good chunk from Friends of Children’s Hospital. We also get a lot of employees from Sanderson Farms.”
Because of the way SEC football schedules have played out, this year’s championship could draw a record number of spectators, Jent said.
“We’re not competing with any home SEC football games,” he said. “We’re excited that some folks who normally would choose to eave for the weekend will be here for the weekend. It just fell into place.”
Last year’s championship had no spectators because of coronavirus, Decker said. “I think the turnout this year is going to be great because people couldn’t attend last year,” he said.
The nonprofit Century Club Charities hosts the championship for which it rents the entire Country Club of Jackson.
“It’s been a great event not only for Children’s Hospital but also the Country Club of Jackson,” said Decker, a member of Century Club Charities. “A lot of the volunteers are Country Club of Jackson members. The Country Club of Jackson members are very supportive.”
The fundraising accomplished by the tournament makes it worthwhile, Jent said.
“The whole reason why we’re doing is to raise money for charity,” he said. “Children’s of Mississippi is our No. 1 charity,” Jent said. “Last year, more than 60 charities got a total of $255,000. We gave Friends of Children’s Hospital $1.45 million.”
Friends of Children’s Hospital is the fundraising organization dedicated to supporting the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s pediatric health care mission, including the state’s only children’s hospital.
Since Sanderson Farms became the title sponsor in 2013, the tournament and Century Club Charities have contributed more than $11.5 million to Friends of Children’s Hospital and other Mississippi charities.
For Jent, the event contains numerous high points from start to finish.
“I enjoy the excitement of crowning that champion on (hole) 18,” he said. “That’s a thrill. For me to and the staff, it’s a thrill when we make that check presentation to the hospital in January, the opportunity to present a bigger pile of money than we did the year before.
“There’s also a thrill just seeing the players compete and the volunteers having a good time. We enjoy seeing people have a fun time at the tournament. We work all year long to make that happen.”
Tickets may be purchased at sandersonfarmschampionship.com. All tickets for the 2021 Sanderson Farms Championship are mobile only and digitally delivered to a mobile device.
Jent advises spectators to wear comfortable clothing and shoes to bring an umbrella and sunscreen.
“Because we’re inside the city of Jackson (that has a mask mandate), we want to be respectful of its protocols,” Jent said. “The PGA Tour has its protocols. Right now, we’re asking spectators to wear masks on shuttle buses. They will also need to wear them in any enclosed space whether they’re vaccinated or not.”
Details regarding security screening, cell phone usage, prohibited items and purse size can be found at sandersonfarmschampionship.com.
General admission parking as well as pick up and drop off for rideshare services including Uber, Lyft and taxis will be at Northpark. Buses will shuttle spectators to the country club.
Handicapped parking will be at Christ United Methodist Church, 6000 Old Canton Road, and buses will shuttle spectators to the country club.