True South Classic is ready to introduce itself

Six weeks before the True South Classic tees off, the tournament’s big marketing push is about to start.

Tournament officials hope the campaign will drive ticket sales, something that’s already “tracking well,” according to the executive director.

“Traditionally we’ll spike once all the (advertising and marketing) efforts get completely going here shortly,” said John Marovich, of Bruno Event Team. The Alabama company was hired to manage the tournament once Madison’s Randy Watkins left to focus on the multiple golf courses he owns and operates. “They’ve started out strong. We just launched a little while ago, but we’ve seen a nice level of interest so far.”

Marovich said he’s also received a similar level of interest from PGA Tour pros about playing at Annandale. The most recognizable names to commit so far are Jason Gore, Lee Janzen, D.A. Points and Dickie Pride.

Marovich will spend this week recruiting in Memphis. Typically, he said, fields aren’t finalized until the last 10 days to two weeks before tournament time. “But the field is in pretty good shape right now,” Marovich said. “For where we are in the process, I’m pretty happy.”

The tournament’s spot on the calendar is the same, as is the course, but the financial faces behind it are different. Gone is Greenwood-based Viking Range as title sponsor. In its place is a consortium of sponsors – four specialty medical clinics and Trustmark Bank – from the Jackson area. Trustmark will serve as the title sponsor for the pro-am.

The contract with the PGA Tour and the sponsorship consortium is good for this year, with a two-year option. Negotiations on whether to pick up the option will likely get serious this fall, once sponsors are several weeks removed from the tournament and can digest its numbers.

“I remember last year that it was somewhere around October when things were finalized,” Marovich said, referring to Viking’s decision not to renew as title sponsor. “Certainly it will be a fall decision. It’ll take us a few weeks to get our arms completely around the final numbers and everything.”

If there is a firm deadline, it lies in the first part of November, when the Tour usually unveils its tournament schedule for the next year. “Absolutely” officials would like to have something done by then, Marovich said.

Nothing will come easy. At the April ceremony to unveil the current sponsorship consortium, Marovich said it was “touch and go” at times during the negotiations to get everybody on board. “There was a period of time when we really had some doubts,” he said then.

Marovich said a total of $4 million had to be rounded up to make the tournament a reality. About half of that, he said, comes from the host community, mostly in the form of sponsorships and ticket sales. The other half comes from the PGA Tour. Marovich would not disclose how much of the community’s half came from the sponsorship consortium.

The price tag of a title sponsorship is in the neighborhood of $1 million. Finding one would be great, Marovich said.

“That would be the ideal solution. A sponsor like that that would allow the tournament to continue for many years in Mississippi would be the way to go. I’m optimistic that will somebody will step forward. I don’t play percentages or anything, but I’m optimistic. We’re going into the 45th year. It’s important to Mississippi.”

A 2010 study by Mississippi State University put the economic impact of the tournament at $22 million.

Dr. Jack Moriarty, of NewSouth NeuroSpine, said in April that part of his clinic’s mission is to spread the word about the benefits of maintaining healthy lifestyles. “We think being involved with the True South Classic is a perfect extension of that. This is an obvious step for all four of our practices,” he added, referring to the other medical sponsors.

During tournament week, the four medical groups will have tents set up adjacent to the 18th fairway that will offer all manner of free medical screening, including blood pressure tests, body mass index tests and flexibility screenings.

 

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