Country club preparing for major golf tournament
For the Country Club of Jackson (CCJ), getting ready for the Sanderson Farms Championship has become a normal routine.
This is the fourth year the tournament will be held at the club, and staffers there are gearing up, just like they have the past three years.
“The first year was probably the most difficult. We didn’t have a relationship with the PGA agronomist and tour officials,” said CCJ Manager Patrick Joyce.
“They’re used to coming here now and know what they’re walking into. As far as the tour agronomist, ever since the first year, meetings have been very short. They know the course will be in great shape. There’s no anxiety from (tour officials’) standpoint.”
The championship is October 26 through 29. The club will be closed throughout the week to accommodate golfers, their families, and tournament visitors.
In all, between 25,000 and 30,000 people are expected to descend on the club, making it a major event on the Northside.
“All of our people are working for the tournament. The men’s locker room will be run by the fitness director and head tennis pro. (Staffers will take on) different roles, but they’ll be helping the tournament,” Joyce said.
To get ready for the event, CCJ does everything from increasing staff and tweaking its menu offerings to making sure its golf course is ready for PGA inspection.
CCJ has 183 employees and will bring in another 20 or so temporary workers, as well as about 30 volunteers to work the golf course, Joyce said.
“The greens are always what people talk about. We use Champions Bermuda (grass). There is a manual that comes from the people who produce it (that tells us) how to maintain it and make the best possible use of the green,” Joyce said.
“It’s a very time-consuming and expensive challenge. But we’ve been doing it since we put the greens in back in 2008. We’re fortunate because when the tournament comes in, we didn’t have to do something we don’t already do.”
Country Club officials and members not only focus on the greens, but make sure the tournament and golfers’ needs are met.
CCJ provides three meals a day to golfers and their families, as well as ensures that the
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club house remains open until the last golfer leaves.
“We do a few things that we‘ve been told by golfers are not usual. This is more from a hospitality standpoint. Several have told us that if they have a late tee time, the club house is closed (when they finish) - there’s no food and they have to fend for themselves,” he said.
“We treat them like they’re our members. We (think) it’s the right thing to do and not that big of a deal.”
During the tournament week itself, the club itself is taken over by Century Club Charities.
Century Club is the nonprofit organization that manages the tournament.
Among other things, the tennis pro shop becomes the PGA rules officials’ headquarters. The golf shop, in turn, is transformed in to a caddy lounge, and a temporary center is set up to sell merchandise for the tournament and Century Club.
CCJ members also get involved in the effort, agreeing to provide lodging to golfers and their families while they’re in town.
“The misconception is that every golfer is (wealthy),” he said. “A lot of the golfers that come to these tournaments are new and paying their own way. Some stay with members in the neighborhood because it’s convenient and they can’t afford a hotel,” Joyce said.
The tournament this year is expected to draw 132 players, including 50 or so who are just beginning tour play, Sanderson Farms Championship Executive Director Steve Jent said.
“There’s about 50 guys in the field who have just gotten their PGA Tour cards, and of those probably 25 or 30 are brand new,” he said. “We tend to be a launching pad for careers.”
Former winners include Woody Austin, who came in second in the 2007 PGA Championship and Bill Haas, who finished fifth in the 2017 U.S. Open.