By JACK WEATHERLY
This week the Sanderson Farms Championship, whose trophy is in the form of a rooster, will strut its stuff as a full-fledged tournament on the PGA tour.
The championship to be played again at the Country Club at Jackson will be able to compete for tour players for the first time without contending with another tournament, the World Golf Championship-HSBC Championship held in China on the same dates.
You might say that the tournament has become a free-range bird.
The winner will get $1.18 million – up from $774,000 that the 2018 champion took home – and an addition 200 FedExCup points, for a total of 500.
And the list of entrants for the four-day tourney, which will start Thursday, reflects the enhanced position.
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame writer Rick Cleveland calls the field of competitors the best in the tournament’s 51-year history.
True, the very biggest names in professional golf won’t play the CCJ course, “but 17 guys who have won PGA Tour tournaments over the past two years will tee it up at CCJ,” Cleveland wrote in Mississippi Today.
Among those names are two-time major winner and five-time Ryder Cup team member Zach Johnson, multiple-tourney winners Brandt Snedeker, K.J. Choi and Lucas Glover, 2013 PGA Championship Jason Dufner and Cameron Champ, who won last year’s Sanderson championship and was one of four nominees for the 2018-2019 Arnold Palmer Award as the PGA Rookie of the Year.
The upgrading of the field has had an impact off the course, said Steve Jent, executive director of the championship.
Expanded hospitality stands around the 18th hole are sold out for the first time, he said. “We have more volunteers than we’ve ever had. All of our numbers are up. We’re just praying for good weather.”
Tickets are available at https://www.sandersonfarmschampionship.com/ticket-packages/ . If you cannot attend, the Golf Channel will carry all four days of the tourney.
Since Laurel-based Sanderson Farms, the nation’s third-largest poultry producer, committed to the sponsorship in 2013, the tournament has raised $8.1 million for charities, including a record $1.38 million last year to Friends of Children’s Hospital, which benefits Batson Children’s hospitals, along with $260,000 for other charities.
It has been estimated that the tournament has a $26 million annual impact on the Jackson area and the state.
“Every year that Sanderson Farms is a part of this event, we grow more proud of all that it accomplishes and what that means to the state of Mississippi and the families and children who benefit from it,” Joe Sanderson, chief executive and chairman of Sanderson Farms, said in a release.
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