By Rusty Hampton
In 2013, Jason Prendergast’s pro shop at the Country Club of Jackson was voted the best in Mississippi and Louisiana by his fellow club pros in the Gulf States Section of the PGA of America.
That was one reason Steve Jent had no qualms about partnering with Prendergast to run the merchandise tent at this year’s Sanderson Farms Championship, which will make its CCJ debut Nov. 6-9.
“It’s joint venture,” said Jent, the SFC tournament director.” Jason does a nice job with his pro shop. He’s got a strong attention to detail and he’s really tuned into what his members like and want, and has good merchandising sense.”
Prendergast’s pro shop will actually be closed during tournament week — the area will instead be used as a lounge for the caddies who are here to work with the touring pros competing in the $4 million PGA Tour event.
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Prendergast will instead spend most of the week in a 1,200-square-foot merchandise tent located between the clubhouse and the main entrance into the tournament, a short walk from where fans will unload and load onto the buses that will shuttle them to and from the event. That strategic location means fans will walk past the merchandise tent at least twice per visit.
In addition to a wide selection of SFC-branded golf shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets and hats, the tournament will also have memorabilia such as oversized rubber golf balls and pin flags for sale that are a hit with kids seeking autographs from the golfers.
Prendergast said he has ordered merchandise from Polo, Nike, Footjoy, Fairways and Greens, Puma, LevelWear and Ahead.
Because this is the first year the event will be played at CCJ, Prendergast wasn’t sure how much merchandise to order.
“We’re not sure how many people are going to come through those gates,” he said. “But we’re prepared for a good situation to happen. We will be fully stocked. We’re going to have a lot of stuff. We are looking at this from a business standpoint, that it’s a three-year commitment, a three-year plan.
“The first year, we don’t want too have much left over, but we don’t want to sell out on everything, either, because that means you’ve missed out on a selling opportunity.”
Some of the shirts will be co-branded, with SFC logos on the breast and the CCJ logo on the sleeve. CCJ members were offered the chance to buy a special “members” shirt to wear during tournament week.
Prendergast said he orders merchandise for his pro shop nine months in advance of its arrival. Because it wasn’t announced until April that the tournament was moving this year from Annandale Golf Club to CCJ, Prendergast was actually behind in ordering for the tournament. He credits the relationships he’s built with sales reps during his 10 years at CCJ with helping him get rush orders filled. “They get a lot of the credit,” he said. “They pulled a lot of strings.”
Jent said merchandising is an important part of the event.
“It’s a part of the experience of attending a PGA Tour event,” he said. “If I’m a fan, I’m going to want a hat or shirt, and everything we’re doing is to generate money for Blair Batson (Children’s Hospital). If we didn’t offer merchandise, we’d be missing the boat on a significant revenue-generating piece for the hospital.”