PGA event moving to Jackson, hoping for bigger draw
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 1:00 PM
ANNANDALE - In the end, moving the PGA golf tournament was about the kids, organizers said, and Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler concurs, although seeing the Sanderson Farms Championship go after two decades is painful.
Madison's premier annual event, the Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament, is moving to Country Club of Jackson, if you haven't heard.
Organizers believe the move will help raise more money for Friends of Children's Hospital.
"Obviously, I am disappointed that the PGA golfers and fans will move from the renowned Annandale golf course," Hawkins-Butler said.
"But it's all about the charity. If Century Club Charities believes that moving the Sanderson Farms Championship to the Jackson Country Club will result in more money being raised for the children at Batson Children's Hospital, then who am I to argue with that."
The 2014 rendition would have been the 21st consecutive year at Annandale Golf Club. Instead, it will be the first at CC of Jackson, pending approval from the PGA Tour Policy Board on April 28.
"As the title sponsor, Sanderson Farms supports Century Club Charities' decision to move the tournament from Annandale Golf Club to the Country Club of Jackson," Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson said in a statement. "Our support for this decision is based solely on the fact that this move will allow the tournament to raise more money for Friends of Children's Hospital, the tournament's main beneficiary."
The move apparently came as a surprise to Annandale's leadership, which fired off a newsletter to club members early Thursday in which they weren't very conciliatory.
"Annandale and the city of Madison have been a very loyal partner to the PGA Tournament and we are obviously are very disturbed by the timing and the complete absence of communication associated with the possibility of a site change for the event," club president Steve Richardson wrote.
By Saturday, the club had toned it down and issued a press release thanking the PGA Tour and tournament organizers for 20 great years.
Madison Alderman Guy Bowering, who lives at Whisper Lake but is not a member at Annandale GC, said he was disappointed by the decision.
"Very much so," Bowering said. "I was surprised, too. I had no prior knowledge that there was even consideration of that, but I'm sure almost no one else did either. Annandale is a tremendous venue and a beautiful and competitive golf course. The PGA players like it, and compliment it every year."
Bowering added that he would like to see an LPGA or Champions' Tour event at Annandale, if the leadership would consider it.
"It's a championship course," he said. "Any event they hold there is going to be first-class."
Reached by phone last Thursday, Century Club Charities' tournament board president John Lang said the record would reflect that the vote by the 10-member panel to move the tournament was unanimous.
"It really has nothing to do with Annandale," Lang said. "It's a great venue, we've had a great relationship with them and we only wish them the best. Golf tournaments make money through hospitality and ticket sales. This move will put the tournament closer to the bulk of the population in the greater metro area, and allow us to make more money on hospitality because the facilities are already in place."
At Annandale, he said, tournament organizers had to construct hospitality areas with large tents, mobile industrial kitchens and more.
"We will be able to raise a lot more money utilizing these facilities at Country Club of Jackson that are already in place," Lang added.
The tournament raised nearly $500,000 for charity last year, and had between 20,000 and 25,000 golf fans attended.
Although some folks pride may be hurt, Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership President Duane O'Neill told the Clarion Ledger's John Talty that benefits from the tournament will continue to spill over city and county lines.
"We're really one market area," O'Neill said. "The restaurants, the hotels, the retail ... that get a spike when the tournament's in town, I think will continue across the entire region."
The Mississippi Development Authority puts the total financial impact of the tournament on the state at $22 million each year.
Bowering also called on folks from Madison to continue to support the event.
"I would hope that there will be continued support throughout the state," Bowering said. "It benefits the entire state, and I hope it continues to receive the support, if not for the golf, for the charities that benefit from it, in particular the Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital."
From 1968 to 1993, the tournament was played at the Hattiesburg Country Club and came to Madison as the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic.
Deposit Guaranty National Bank - which eventually was acquired by Regions- was founded in 1925 by 14 prominent Jackson businessmen.