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Seeing green : Classic ‘keeps people talking about golf’

Metro area retailers, restaurants and golf outlets see more green during the weeklong Southern Farm Bureau Classic (SFBC).

“I’m definitely one that benefits from the tournament, there’s no question,” said pro golfer Randy Watkins, owner of Whisper Lake and Patrick Farms Golf Clubs and Randy Watkins Golf Cars. “I rent the tournament a lot of golf carts, I get a lot of play, and I get some corporate functions. A bank or car dealership might entertain customers by playing at Whisper Lake in the morning and taking them to a hospitality tent at the tournament in the afternoon.”

Locally, people play more golf during tournament week, but they also play longer as weather permits “especially when their football teams lose.”

“Every time Ole Miss or Mississippi State gets beat, we get clobbered with more golf,” he said, with a chuckle. “Really, people used to stop playing golf after Labor Day. Now they’ve figured out it’s one of the best times of the year to play, and moving the tournament to the fall confirmed it. Now it peaks around Labor Day. Also, the tournament keeps people talking about golf, and many times, that’s as good as anything.”

Because many local golfers have played at Annandale, “they can relate,” said Watkins. “They’ll say, ‘you know, ole Fred Funk made a double-bogey on that hole and I parred it the day I played it.’ That’s good stuff.”

Carey Wiegand, manager of Edwin Watts Golf Shop, said business slows down during actual tournament play, but picks up before and after.

“We sell tickets to the tournament, so that helps beforehand,” he said. “Afterward, customers often come by to check out products they saw pro golfers using. If they’re not putting well, for example, they want to check out a particular putter, or they may want to look at a product that the PGA Tour endorsed. We have to be careful to have the stock level right.”

Tony Bishop, manager of Nevada Bob’s, said “hard goods sales don’t increase, but sales of soft goods do.”

Steven Broadus, owner of Steven’s Golf Shop, said he hasn’t noticed much difference in business during the tournament week. “Our busy time is in the spring, when people are beginning to play golf again,” he said.

Sales of SFBC apparel spikes before the tournament, when 1,200 volunteers purchase uniform shirts, outerwear and hats or visors. “They do receive a substantial discount,” said SFBC tournament coordinator Mary Katherine Rice.

Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, said the SFBC generates business primarily for full-service restaurants with bars.

“Typically, customers don’t stray too far from the Madison/County Line Road area,” he said. “Because the impact is limited to a handful of restaurants, such as Parker House, Shapley’s and Tico’s, the impact is localized.”

David Joseph, manager of Char restaurant, said business increases significantly “because golfers enjoy nice places to eat.”

“Entertaining out-of-town guests is very important, not only to the city, but also to Mississippi,” said Joseph. “We thoroughly enjoy taking care of them.”

Tico Hoffman, a pro golfer and owner of Tico’s steakhouse, hosts a private party for the players the Sunday before the tournament begins, “and that really kicks off a good week for me,” he said. “I played in the tournament a few years and got to know a lot of the guys, so they come have dinner with me. I can’t complain at all.”

Jeff Good, owner of Bravo restaurant, Broad Street Bakery and Broad Street Express, said the Classic “always gives an economic boost to the restaurant market.”

“We really appreciate it, and we’re thrilled it’s in our market,” he said.

Every year, area restaurants chip in $250 in gift certificates, which Classic organizers donate to players in allotments of $10 to $25, along with a brochure featuring a numbered system of participating restaurants, explained Good.

“They do a very good job with that brochure of helping pro golfers and their families find places to go,” said Good. “We gladly participate because we can count on a really nice turnout at Bravo!. We typically see many of the same people every year who really appreciate our cuisine. It’s a fun time for us.”

Aven Whittington, catering coordinator for Bravo and Broad Street Bakery, said business always increases during the Classic, when sponsors host off-site parties.

“Sometimes, sponsors want to entertain visitors away from the tournament play, just for a change of venue,” he said. “We always handle one party for a local couple that sponsors a golfer in their home. Anything that impacts us like this is always good.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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