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This year’s Viking most important ever?

Though it doesn’t tee off for nearly another three months, the 2010 Viking Classic has already shaped up to be a critical event for its organizers, its sponsors and the Metro Jackson area as a whole.

If you haven’t already seen our story about it in this week’s MBJ, check it out.

What makes this year’s Viking probably more important than any other is that the contract that names Greenwood-based Viking Range as the title sponsor expires when the tournament ends Oct. 3. This is also the last year of the agreement between the PGA Tour and Annandale Golf Club for the course to host the tournament. All the involved parties are in negotiations to extend both deals.

Nobody we talked to, on either side, was comfortable putting a timetable on when a decision would be made. But it was clear that, at least from the perspective of the local folks, the Viking means an awful lot, and not just economically, even though the tournament pumps an estimated $20 million into the area.

Randy Watkins, golf course magnate and executive director of the Viking, talked for a long time about how much pride he and his team, and the folks from Annandale, take in putting on a good show for the players and spectators. That makes what happened last year — when the tournament was canceled all together by heavy rains — especially difficult for them to swallow. It also makes them more determined than ever to put their best foot forward this year.

A lot rides on this year’s Viking, maybe the future of the tournament itself.

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