Bold moves pay off for Sanderson Farms golf
JACKSON — Forty-seven years ago, a few Hattiesburg businessmen got together and hosted an experimental PGA Tour satellite tournament. They called it the Magnolia Classic. The total purse was $20,000.
Those Hattiesburg folks never could have imagined what happened here the past few days.
Here on a cool, breezy, sun-splashed Sunday at Country Club of Jackson, the $4 million Sanderson Farms Championship, a full-fledged, PGA Tour event, experienced perhaps its showcase day in the event’s 47-year history.
With an international TV audience viewing on The Golf Channel, 26-year-old Canadian Nick Taylor shot a brilliant 6-under-par 66 to win the $720,000 first prize. Taylor won by two shots over tour veterans Boo Weekley and Jason Bohn, both multi-time winners on the PGA Tour.
Nevertheless, the biggest winner: Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at University of Mississippi Medical Center, which will receive a check for in the neighborhood of $1 million.
Born and raised at the Hattiesburg Country Club, nurtured at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Mississippi’s only stop on the PGA Tour bucked the mid-Mississippi trend and moved from the suburbs back into the city. It also moved from July dates to November. A quick analysis of the two bold moves: instant, unprecedented success.
“I’m thrilled with every aspect,” Sanderson Farms CEO Joe F. Sanderson said. “We couldn’t have asked for anything more. We’ve doubled our revenue from last year. That means we will be able to meet of goal of presenting the children’s hospital close to, if not, a million dollars. We should never forget that’s what this is all about.”
The weather was perfect, the golf course immaculate. Players raved about the greens, which were fast and true.
Corporate Mississippi stepped up, Sanderson said. That was especially true of mid-Mississippi and Sanderson’s hometown of Laurel.
Sanderson, the man who two years ago saved the tournament from extinction, now is more bullish than ever about the event’s future.
“These players will be our best ambassadors,” Sanderson said. “They’re going to go out and tell their peers about this wonderful golf course, these great facilities and about what Mississippi is like in early November. Our playing field will continue to improve.”
Tour players already knew about July in mid-Mississippi, about the furnace-like heat and the sub-tropical-like humidity. They knew about those thunderstorms, as well.
The one fear about moving the tournament to November was going head-to-head with football in this football-mad state.
Sanderson said that was an easy choice.
“I’d rather compete against football than Mother Nature,” Sanderson said. “I’m glad the rest of the world can see what Mississippi is like in early November. The weather has been absolutely perfect.”
You should know that Sanderson, 67, made sure the tournament’s Mississippi hospitality started at the top. He made a point to thank every tour pro for playing. Heck, he thanked every amateur he encountered for playing in the two pro-ams.
Sanderson can count on Taylor, a tour rookie, as one of his Sanderson Farms Championship ambassadors.
“The golf course is fantastic, the food was wonderful and the people were so friendly, so hospitable,” he said.
When the trophy ceremony finished, Taylor called home to his wife of seven months, Andi. She was working a 12-hour shift as a social worker at a hospital in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
“She was crying, she was so happy,” Taylor said.
Said Taylor, smiling, “It might be her last double shift for a while.”
Come see the Sanderson Farms Championship exhibit at your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.