Mississippi tourney adds sponsor

Mississippi’s only PGA Tour event is safe for now.

Sanderson Farms has agreed to be the title sponsor for the newly-named Sanderson Farms Championship, which will be played at Annandale Golf Club in nearby Madison, Miss., from July 18-21.

The tournament has been a part of the PGA Tour since 1968. It has had several name changes over the years, and lost its previous title sponsor Viking Range Corporation after the 2011 tournament. A conglomeration of companies sponsored the 2012 event, which was called the True South Classic.

Now Sanderson Farms takes over as the title sponsor in a move that could bring some much-needed stability. The company based in Laurel, Miss., is the third-largest poultry producer in the United States.

”It’s a big sense of relief,” said John Marovich, the tournament’s executive director. ”Having somebody with a longtime presence in Mississippi — it’s got a very bright future.”

Sanderson Farms agreed to a one-year sponsorship with an option to extend. Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson is an avid golfer and said his company is open to becoming a long-term partner with the tournament if things go as planned this year.

”That will be a subjective evaluation that we’ll make after the tournament, but it feels right,” Sanderson said. ”It’s right for our employees and shareholders, and it’s certainly right for the charities and the state.”

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the tournament has a $22 million economic impact on the Jackson area. Bryant said there were some anxious moments when searching for a sponsor, but Sanderson Farms is a good solution.

”It would have been a huge loss for us in Mississippi,” Bryant said. ”Joe Sanderson, working with the leadership at Annandale and this tournament, saved the day for us.”

The Sanderson Farms Classic is one of three additional events on the PGA Tour that is scheduled the same week as a major championship. This year, the tournament will be held the same week as The British Open.

The tournament has traditionally been a place of opportunity for younger golfers because most of the tour’s big names are playing in the British Open. The defending champion is 27-year-old Scott Stallings, who is 45th on the money list this season.

This year’s tournament will have a $3 million purse, with $540,000 going to the winner. A win is worth 300 FedEx points, which is less than the usual 500 for a victory when there is no competing event.