True South sponsorship consortium back on board

The four specialty medical clinics and Trustmark Bank have all pledged to serve as sponsors for the True South Classic.

But the tournament needs at least one more to guarantee it returns in 2013, event director John Marovich said last week.

NewSouth NeuroSpine, Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Jackson Heart Clinic and GI Associates and Endoscopy Center were first-time sponsors of the tournament. Greenwood-based Viking Range Co. was the title sponsor of the event through the 2011 Viking Classic, but did not renew its contract.

There was some doubt as late as last spring whether officials could gather enough sponsors to move forward with July’s tournament.

The clinics’ and Trustmark’s jumping on board put those fears to rest. With their commitments for 2013’s tournament sealed, John Marovich said he’s in discussions with “three or four” companies to join them.

Marovich said one was a telecommunications company, “but probably not the one everybody would automatically think of.”

Another is a health insurance company whose name Mississippians would recognize, he said. All are what could be considered household name, he added.

“There is a possibility of a title sponsor, but if it’s going to happen it has to happen quick because normal business planning cycles and budgets for the next calendar year are being set now,” Marovich said. “Ideally, one would step up but we know we can make it work with the consortium.”

Marovich said the PGA Tour has already set all of its schedule for 2013, and awaits news on the True South Classic’s sponsorship pursuit to complete it. The Tour usually unveils its schedule for the next year in early November. The schedule for 2012 was set a little earlier than usual last year, Marovich said. “This year, it seems they’re ready to go and they’re just waiting on us.”

The contract with the PGA Tour and the bank/medical sponsorship consortium was good for 2012, with a two-year option.

At the April ceremony to unveil it, Marovich said it was “touch and go” at times during the negotiations to get everybody on board.

Marovich said then 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. The price tag of a title sponsorship is in the neighborhood of $1 million.

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

Marovich is optimistic at least one additional sponsor will be found in time for the True South to be on the Tour’s 2013 schedule. What makes Marovich think that is how well the 2012 tournament went, he said.

“The feedback we got from this year’s tournament was very positive.” He pointed to the record amount (about $200,000) the tournament raised for Birdies for Charity, which gathers money from every PGA Tour event and donates it to a consortium of nonprofits.

Aside from landing one more sponsor — “or two or three of them,” Marovich said — perhaps the best thing that could happen for the True South is a move back to its old fall date. That would no longer pit the tournament opposite the British Open, but would also serve another important purpose.

“The summer’s really difficult on our volunteers,” Marovich said, referring to the Mississippi heat that becomes close to unbearable in mid-July. “Having them out there in that heat is a challenge. Lots of other tournaments rely on younger volunteers but with a summer tournament, that’s not possible to the extent we’d like it to be.

“I think this tournament has great momentum,” Marovich continued. “Seeing how this community rallied in three months to pull this off is amazing. People don’t’ realize what it takes to pull off an event like this. There’s a reason why there’s been a professional golf tournament here for 45 years.”

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