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BankPlus on board for new fan experience during tournament

Vijay Singh has long been the No. 1 target for Viking Classic tournament director Randy Watkins.

Because Singh keeps on winning, the chances of him teeing off September 18 at Annandale are growing slim.

Singh won the Deutsche Bank Championship August 31, his second consecutive victory. Because of that, Singh has all but clinched the Fed Ex Cup championship, whose winner will receive a $10 million bonus after the Tour Championship later this month.

“He would really have no reason to play (the Viking),” Watkins said last week. “But he still has not said no, at least not to me.”

Last year’s Viking champion Chad Campbell has withdrawn because he was named last week to the Ryder Cup team.

Regardless, Watkins and his team are happy with this year’s field, highlighted by David Toms, who won the 2001 PGA Championship. Toms committed to the Viking a couple weeks ago.

Eat, shop, socialize

BankPlus, one of the tournament’s consortium sponsors, will also lend its resources to a public access area that will sit off the 18th fairway. The area is new and will allow spectators to watch the tournament while they eat, shop and socialize.

“That’s going to be a great new addition,” Watkins said. “Anybody who can get in the gate can visit there. You don’t have to have a premium ticket package. And that’s kind of indicative of BankPlus. They’re very welcoming and they are a great Mississippi company.”

Along with the public area off 18, Viking will set up a culinary tent that will feature cooking demonstrations from the Viking Cooking School by several celebrity chefs, including Mississippi restaurateur Robert St. John, the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, Mississippi Governor’s Mansion executive chef Luis Bruno and John Besh of New Orleans, owner of Restaurant August, Luke, La Provence and Besh’s Steak. For a full list of times and chefs, and to purchase ticket packages, visit www.vikingclassic.com.

World-class experience

Besides securing the strongest field possible, Watkins and his team spend the rest of their time ensuring that the Viking patron experience is such that it keeps folks coming back year after year. To reach that end, Viking organizers have expanded the tournament’s entertainment options beyond patrons simply following their favorite golfer.

“We want them to see outstanding professional golfers and to appreciate the course and the skill of the players,” Watkins said from St. Louis, where he was recruiting players for the Viking.

“And we also want them to experience the world-class culinary talents of Viking. The cooking demonstrations are going to be very popular, I assure you, because they were an absolute hit last year.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .

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