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Viking Range pulling out as PGA sponsor

MADISON and GREENWOOD — Viking Range Corp. of Greenwood is pulling out as sponsor of the PGA Tour event in Mississippi and tournament officials have until late September to find a new sponsor or sponsors, director Randy Watkins said.

Just under $1 million is needed, and the tournament could lose its spot on the 2012 PGA Tour calendar if it doesn’t meet the deadline, Randy Watkins told The Clarion-Ledger.

The PGA Tour would have no comment at this time, Chief spokesman Ty Votaw told The Associated Press. Watkins did not immediately return a call yesterday from the AP.

Watkins said he has an agreement with the PGA Tour to play in July for the next three years if the sponsorship money is found. Because the dates are opposite the British Open, a sponsor would pay only about half the normal cost for the tour.

Watkins said he has spoken to about five companies interested in being sponsors in some way. He would not identify them.

Viking decided last week to drop the sponsorship, said Watkins.

Viking, which makes high-end kitchen appliances, has been hit hard by the recession, laying off more than 300 workers since 2008. It has been the title sponsor for the last five years and four tournaments. Rain canceled the 2009 event.

The 44-year-old tournament’s purse is among the tour’s smallest, and is planned to rise $100,000 to $3.7 million in 2012. Some of the money is subsidized by the PGA Tour.

If a new title sponsor is found, it will be the tournament’s fourth in 25 years. If a consortium of about eight sponsors is formed, the tournament’s new name wouldn’t include a sponsor’s.

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