Sanderson Farms saves state's PGA event

Joe Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms, made a promise and a tribute during his remarks at the Sanderson Farms Championship Media Day at Annandale Wednesday.

The promise: “Come rain or shine at this tournament, there will be lots of chicken!”

Sanderson Farms is the third largest poultry producer in the U.S.

The tribute: To 82-year-old Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Robert Morgan, the Mississippi PGA Tournament’s only executive director for its first 38 years.

Said Sanderson, “It is an honor and a privilege to have Robert Morgan, the man who is widely regarded the father of this event here with us today.”

During the press conference, which naturally featured fried chicken tenderloins, Sanderson and others spoke of the format and planned improvements for this year’s tournament scheduled for the week of July 15-21 at Annandale.

Sanderson Farms is widely viewed as the saviour for Mississippi’s only tournament on the PGA Tour, an event that began in Hattiesburg in 1968, but was left without a title sponsor when Viking did not renew its sponsorship after the 2011 tournament.

Among the added features for the Sanderson Farms Championship: Successive themed days Friday-Saturday-Sunday (July 19-20-21) to celebrate what Mississippi does best. Friday will be Mississippi Music Day with a concern following Friday’s round. Saturday will be family day with cold watermelon served free on the grounds. And Sunday will be Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame with many of Mississippi’s sports heroes available for autographs and photos.

Sanderson Farms and Century Club Charities plan to move the tournament to fall dates in 2014 to avoid the Mississippi heat. That, said defending champion Scott Stallings, will  be the key to the tournament’s ongoing success.

“You’ve got a great golf course, a great tournament here,” said Stallings. “But the heat is  really tough. I’ve played two other places where it is this hot. One is Memphis and the other is Malaysia. Moving to the fall will be a big step in the right direction.”

Stallings won a rain-plagued tournament at Annandale last July, shooting a four-round total of 24-under par 264. It was his second tour win and made him one of only seven PGA Tour pros to have multiple victories before the age of 30.

Stallings came close to a third victory at Colonial last week shooting 69-65-69-66 and finishing tied for fourth behind Boo Weekley. Stallings’ round included a 29 on the first nine on Sunday.

Stallings was flying to Columbus, Ohio, later Tuesday to prepare for Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament, which begins Thursday. Before leaving Jackson he paid a visit to Blair Batson Children’s Hospital, one of the many beneficiaries of Century Charities, which has long been associated with the Annandale PGA Tournament.

Last year’s tournament raised $420,000 for local charities.

Said Joe Sanderson, “What better way to raise money for Mississippi’s only children’s hospital than by enjoying golf.”

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