By JON WIENER
Want your corporation and clients to spend an afternoon playing golf with a PGA Tour pro on a championship golf course?
Better hurry. Availabile spots are filling up quickly for the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship Wednesday Heritage Bag Pro-Am at the Country Club of Jackson on Nov. 5.
Fewer than seven team spots remain for the tournament’s marquee sponsor event. The age-old pro-am is always a highlight of the PGA tournament week: local corporations and their clients teaming up with a PGA touring professional for a day of golf and revelry.
For Sanderson’s Wednesday Heritage Bag Pro-Am, $16,000 buys a team of three golfers plus a PGA Tour pro and includes six invite-only Pairing Party VIP invitations (Tuesday night). Players also receive three Pro-Am gift packages, money clips good for weekly event lawn and grounds admission, guest badges, and VIP parking passes and other access.
This year’s event comes with a major change, and a good one for sponsors. The PGA Tour now requires that most pro-ams be “walking only,” meaning every sponsor spot also comes with a caddy invite.
“If I’m a sponsor and buy a Pro-Am team, I can have three of my employees and have them caddy for three customers, and now you’ve got six guys between the ropes with a great experience with a pro,” said tournament director Steve Jent. “As a sponsor I’d rather have six guys when I’m paying that amount of money; with what I’m paying, let me maximize the number of people I get between the ropes. How cool is it for me to take a customer out and be his caddy and play with a Tour pro? It’s gonna be a really cool experience.”
Format for fun
The popular “shamble” format for the Pro-Am caters to low handicappers and the hackers who spend more time hunting for balls than hitting them. In a shamble, each player tees off with his own ball, then the group chooses the best tee shot. Each player plays their next shot from that point.
“The beauty of that format is that it keeps everybody involved. Usually in a pro-am, most amateurs need help off the tee. So when you’re playing a best-ball format, if someone slices off the tee and they’re out of play, they’re pretty much done for the next 15 minutes and that’s not a lot of fun. The shamble keeps everyone involved in the game all the way through,” Jent said.
The Sanderson Farms Championship week also features a Monday Pro-Am for four players instead of three, but without the selection of pros that will be on the JCC grounds for Wednesday’s event. The sponsor price is $10,000 for a team of four that includes the same perks of the Wednesday Heritage Bag Pro-Am.
For anyone who’s ever hit a golf ball — or seen a pro do it — the Pro-Am offers an experience rare to sports fans. What other sports can you play and compete with the professionals on their turf the day before the big event?
“And these guys are great guys. The caddies are a lot of fun, the players are a lot of fun, and they’re interactive with the amateurs…it’s just a great time. It adds a lot to the week”
Hospitality for CCJ
Hospitality tents make another corporate attraction of PGA tournaments. A huge factor in moving the Sanderson Farms Championship from Annandale to the Country Club of Jackson was the cost-effective upgrades to the hospitality venues.
Instead of having to erect each tent from scratch — garish, makeshift structures that quickly total into the hundreds of thousands of dollars — the tournament will access the lavish rooms in the JCC clubhouse as primary hospitality areas, as well as caddy lounges, media rooms, and volunteer pavilions. Two of the three major sponsor rooms used for corporate entertaining are already booked.
“We still have (some venues) available, but we feel pretty good about where everything is right now. We know traditionally a lot of decisions to participate in the tournament are really made within these last couple months, but we’re on a pace to sell some things at a rate we haven’t had here before,” Jent said.
For corporations looking for value in sponsor access, Sanderson is emphasizing its variety. Hospitality doesn’t have to be high-dollar. Packages for the on-course Trophy Club hospitality venue that include a lunch buffet, full service bar and television start at $2,000 for two credentials Thursday-Sunday.
“We’ve got different options available for whatever a company’s budget is in terms of how many people they want to entertain, and how much they want to spend. Individual hospitality tents that we call chalets on the 18th green are available for seventy five people a day, all the way down to open air ones on seventeen that you can buy two tickets a day for all four days,” Jent said.