Sanderson Farms tourney declared success

By ANTHONY WARREN,

A better ending couldn’t have been scripted.

Sebastian Munoz came from behind to force a playoff, and then won on the first extra hole to claim his first PGA victory and the Sanderson Farms Championship.

The playoff was the first one in 40 PGA events, and capped what had already been one of the most successful years in the championship’s history.

The September tourney marked the first time the annual event was sanctioned as a full FedExCup by the PGA, giving the winner an automatic invite to play in the Masters.

Attendance and sponsorships this year were also up, meaning more proceeds for local charities.

Despite successes, tournament officials are already looking ahead to next year and what they can do differently.

“We’re always looking at everything from year-to-year,” said Steve Jent, executive director of Century Club Charities, the tournament organizer. “The tournament is almost on a 15 to 16-month cycle. We started looking at the 2020 championship in June or July of this year.”

Jent said attendance figures aren’t released, but he expects more than 30,000 people were on site during the week-long event.

The tournament ran from September 16-22.

“We sold more in hospitality. We had more companies involved. We built more around the 18th hole,” he said. “We sold out both pro-ams. We ran out of pairings guides.”

The pro-ams are the tournaments held at the start of the week, before professional play gets under way.

Pairing guides are schedules that show when golfers were slated to tee off. Each person in attendance receives one of the guides.

“There were a couple of days we had to print more pairings guides because we ran out,” Jent said. “All of those factors intrinsically tell us there were more people on site. Everything leads us to know that there were more people here.”

The roughly 3,000 people watching the playoff between Munoz and Sungjae Im backs up Jent’s assertions.

“There were a lot of people, especially on Sunday,” Jent said. “When I looked up there, it was packed.”

Even so, Jent said Century Club staffers are not sitting on their laurels.

“We are always trying to get everything just a little bit better. None of us here are so complacent that we’re not going to improve. Even the good stuff, we want to make it great.”

The event is underwritten annually by Sanderson Farms, as well as a host of other corporations.

The goal of the championship is to raise money for Friends of Children’s Hospital, as well as other local charities.

Amounts given are based in part on proceeds from ticket sales, concessions and the like, as well as sponsorships and hospitality purchases.

Companies often purchase hospitality tents to treat employees, clients and potential clients.

The 2018 tournament raised about $2,235,000 for Batson and other charities. This year’s amount will likely not be announced until January, but Jent expects this year’s amount to go up.

“We sold enough hospitality to completely encircle the 18th green,” said Jent. “We had 200 to 220 companies involved in some way.”

Behind the hospitality tents was the grandstand for the general public, which was built high enough to allow all spectators a good view of the final hole.

“The 18th is the premier spot, because that’s where everything ends on Sunday,” he said. “We had more companies that wanted (to be there) this year.

“To allow more people to see, we built a higher and better grandstand. And there were a lot of people.”

The championship means a major financial boost for the capital city and metro area as a whole.

A 2016 economic impact study conducted by the Mississippi State University Department of Agricultural Economics estimated that the “total impact of the Sanderson Farms Championship on the Mississippi economy … is estimated to be just over $26 million.”

That includes amounts spent by players, families and patrons while in the state, and the jobs supported through that spending.

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