Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Rick Cleveland: The Monsoon Open

When Mississippi's PGA Tour stop began so humbly 48 years ago, organizers called it the Magnolia State Classic.

With nearly half a century of history, it now seems perfectly clear a more appropriate name was available: The Monsoon Open.

The tournament has been played in spring, summer and fall. It has been played at three sites, has experienced four name changes, five different sponsors and one constant: rain.

This year's Sanderson Farms Championship was no different and further proof that no Farmer's Almanac, nor Weather Channel, is necessary when it comes to the PGA Tour and Mississippi. What you need is this: a big, sturdy umbrella and galoshes. At least, this year, no boats were needed. That has been the case in the past.

You know this year's deal. Mid-Mississippi had experienced a summer-long drought. Yards were dying. Trees were stressed. Flowers were parched. Lakes were down. We were under a rare burn ban. And then came time for the Sanderson Farms Championship and, of course, nearly a foot of rain.

But here's what you need to know about the Sanderson Farms Championship. It persevered. It always does. The tournament Sports Illustrated once dubbed “The little golf tournament that could” still does.

This year, the best news came before the tournament ever began: Joe Sanderson, CEO of the sponsoring food corporation, last week announced a 10-year contact extension with the PGA Tour to continue the tournament through 2026.

The cheers you hear are from Century Club Charities and Batson Children's Hospital at University of Mississippi Medical Center. Last year, the tournament raised $1.4 million for charities, including a $1.1 million check for the children's hospital.

Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Robert Morgan of Hattiesburg, the tournament's executive director for the first 38 years, kept this tournament alive through thick, lots of thin and a couple floods. Morgan just wouldn't let it die. But it finally seemed doomed three years ago.

Enter Sanderson, the 68-year-old self-avowed golf enthusiast, who injected both money and energy. He originally signed on for four years, and this was the third.

That's not how he normally does business, Sanderson says.

“We don’t do short-term deals,” Sanderson said. “Everything we do with our customers, our employees, our growers, our city, is long-term. So when we discussed this, we had no fear of a 10-year commitment.”

Sanderson is nothing if not committed. He is surely the only tournament CEO in professional golf who writes personal thank-you notes to the non-exempt, no-name golfers who go through pre-tournament qualifying. He's hands-on, across the board. He personally thanks the volunteers. Heck, he even thanks the caddies.

In 2014, for the first time in a long time, the tournament experienced perfect weather. We saw what a first-class PGA Tour tournament could be like in early November at Country Club of Jackson. You only needed an umbrella if you wanted to block the sunshine.

The Farmer's Almanac would tell you that's what the weather is supposed be like this time of the year in this part of the world.

So maybe, despite the history, this year was an anomaly. Maybe, for the next 11 years, we'll experience the sunny, breezy “sweater weather” the first week of November normally brings.

Rain or not, Mississippi's PGA Tournament is good through 2026. The little tournament that could is not so little any more. What began as a $20,000 experiment is now a $4.1 million reality — with a guaranteed future.


Rick Cleveland ( is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.


Anonymous said...

Jackson stole the Magnolia Classic from the Hattiesburg Country club decades ago.

Anonymous said...

it was a great event. I went Sunday and was really impressed with the crowds. If we only had more companies like Sanderson Farms. The firms in Jackson need to step up and continue to support this event.

Anonymous said...

Joe Sanderson is a class act! Has become a true Mississippi leader.

Anonymous said...

For those who prefer Big Government to Big Business, compare how the politicians operate in our area compared to Joe Sanderson and his great company.

Anonymous said...

I got to go Thursday in the beautiful afternoon. Good crowd, great golf and overall super event for Jackson. Just be prepared for a long walk to the venue. Only gripe is very little open spectator seating. Next year I'll bring a chair.
Joe Sanderson thank you for keeping the PGA tour stop in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

There are no firms left in Jackson.

Anonymous said...

7:39 Payday loan shops and hair weave places don't sponsor PGA tournaments? Damn!

Glass Shaft said...

But, back to the subject of this thread. It does seem to rain more often than not. Of course neither Mr. Sanderson nor the Country Club nor any prior venue had control over that. Seems no matter what month it was set for or switched to, it rains two days during the event.

Hush Y'all.

Anonymous said...

Sanderson Farms will probably be sold in the next few years. It is the last big company left in Mississippi.

Questions Survey Results said...

Really, 11:42?

Putter said...

I remember walking very close to the pros when the tournament was in Hattiesburg - there were no gallery ropes. I remember Dave Hill clowning with his gallery and several other pros who thanked fans for pulling for them.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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