FANS, FRIENDS, FOOD, FUN & FAIRWAYS
Sanderson Farms Championship Welcomes Back Spectators
Thanks to an abundance of safety precautions and months of strategic planning, spectators were able to flock back to the Country Club of Jackson for the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2021. Without a doubt, there was a spirit of excitement in the air, and the eagerness of golf fans to return to the greens was evident as ticket sales for the event exceeded expectations and set tournament attendance records.
With continued safety precautions such as social distancing, digital ticketing and contactless transactions in place, many in-person events were able to return this year such as the annual Women’s Day event, presented by International Paper, which featured author and motivational speaker, Katherine Wolf. Additional returning events included the Blue Cross Blue Shield Youth Golf Clinic, Tesori Family Foundation All-Star Kids Clinic and the Bank Plus Junior Pro-Am.
Consistent with tournament tradition, fans were encouraged to participate in theme days at the tournament, such as wearing pink on Friday to support breast cancer awareness and wearing their favorite team’s colors on Saturday. The week was filled with special moments including a participant in the All-Star Kids Clinic, who was gifted a matching Sanderson Farms Championship hat from none other than Sanderson Farms’ Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Joe F. Sanderson Jr. Another highlight of the week occurred when Steve Jent, tournament executive director for the Sanderson Farms Championship, presented a pin flag signed by every PGA TOUR player at the event to a young child who had recently lost all of his signed golf memorabilia in a hurricane.
With a restored need for volunteers at the event, the event’s faithful volunteers answered the call and turned out in droves to support the charitable cause. “Sanderson Farms has been such an amazing title sponsor for our tournament,” said Kacie Lindsley, volunteer coordinator for the Sanderson Farms Championship. “We’re so lucky to have Joe and Kathy as such great supporters for us and Sanderson Farms does such an amazing job every year helping to provide volunteers to us.”
The beautiful weather throughout the week created a pleasant backdrop as golfers and spectators enjoyed playing and socializing. The successful event included two pro-am tournaments, sponsored by John Soules Foods and Allen Exploration, and a full field of 144 PGA TOUR players, including several former Sanderson Farms Championship winners.
Attendees were thrilled to be included and their excitement brought an energy to the tournament that was sorely missed last year when spectators were not permitted at the event due to COVID-19. “Our customers look forward to coming out every year for the Sanderson Farms Championship, and I think they view it as an honor to be invited to support Children’s of Mississippi, which is such a great cause,” said Jason Briceno, corporate sales manager for Sanderson Farms. “It was an honor to be on the winning team for the Allen Exploration Pro-Am this year.”
Sam Burns, the winner of the 2021 Sanderson Farms Championship, was able to edge out the competition in order to secure his second PGA TOUR victory. Finishing at 5-under 67, 25-year-old Burns secured the $1.260 million prize and 500 FedExCup points. With this win, Burns is projected to move to number 18 in the world.
“This is definitely a full circle moment,” said Burns. “This is one of my favorite events on the TOUR. I always enjoy coming here and being close to home, and for Steve [Jent] to give me that opportunity as a kid coming out of college, it meant a lot to me. God willing, I’ll be able to play here for the next 20 years, and it will always have a special place in my heart.”
On Sunday, the final day of the tournament, players and spectators at the event were encouraged to wear yellow clothing and “play yellow” in order to support children’s health care awareness. PlayYellow, a passion project launched by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, came to fruition when a young fan of Nicklaus was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, which eventually took his life. The young fan had predicted Nicklaus’ victory because he was wearing his “lucky” yellow shirt. Now, the Nicklauses encourage players and fans to continue their mission of raising awareness and supporting the children in local children’s hospitals by wearing yellow.
For Burns, wearing yellow as he achieved the coveted win at the Sanderson Farms Championship was particularly special as his weeks-old nephew, Burns Walker, is currently receiving treatment for spinal meningitis at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. “He won’t remember because he’s only like five or six weeks old, but I’ll definitely remember it, and our family will remember it,” said Burns. On the back nine of the course, Burns birdied four holes to capture the one-shot victory over the next closest competitors, Nick Watney and Cameron Young.
All in all, the 2021 Sanderson Farms Championship was safe and successful in achieving the ultimate goal of raising awareness and supporting Friends of Children’s Hospital. “We are thrilled to have Sam as an ambassador for the Sanderson Farms Championship,” said tournament executive director, Steve Jent. “Sam made his professional debut at our tournament with a sponsor’s exemption here in 2017, and now he has come full circle with an exciting win today. This has been a stellar week, and we look forward to doing this again in 2022!”