In January of 2020, the PGA Tour announced that they had surpassed three billion dollars in all time charitable giving. With all that money coming in, how does a PGA Tour event create a local and regional impact? 


At the Business of Golf, we’re talking about how money is made and spent in the golf industry. This week, we’re going to be looking behind the scenes of an important event played in Jackson, Mississippi. 


Jois us as we sit down with PGA Tour Tournament Director and Executive Director of the Sanderson Farms Championship, Steve Jent to find out more. 


The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.


Alyson Johnson: So you had a really big year in 2020. You broke your own record in charitable giving by donating 1.4 million from the proceeds of the Sanderson Farms Championship during a pandemic with no fans. Tell us how you did that?

Steve Jent: It was pretty amazing. And when we were looking at the numbers once it was all said and done, I think it was kind of hard for us to believe as well. For us, it started seven or eight years ago when Joe Sanderson and the folks at Sanderson Farms took over the title sponsorship of our event. They’re a Mississippi family whose company has been in business since 1947 and they’ve just done business the right way. 

They treat people the right way and everybody buys into what they believe in and promote. When Joe said he wanted to be the title sponsor of the tournament about seven years ago, he said I want to do it for two reasons. One, I don’t want Mississippi to lose its only PGA Tour event. And I also want the money to go to the Children’s of Mississippi Hospital. So everyone really just kind of got behind that.

Adam Grubb: For those that don’t know, explain the process and the reasoning behind a PGA tournament giving money. How do charitable contributions work in the PGA and specifically with golf tournaments?

SJ: Essentially, we have three buckets. I put on a tournament, I’ve partnered with the PGA Tour to be able to run a tournament with the PGA Tours logo, the PGA Tour FedEx logo, the Sanderson Farm Championship logo. So, most PGA Tour events are run by a non-profit host organization. I actually work for a group called Century Club Charities. We own and operate the Sanderson Farms Championship. 

We essentially sell three buckets of goods right. We sell branding, we sell programs, and we sell hospitality and out of those three buckets of goods we create our revenue that allows us to run the tournament. That revenue allows us to rent the shuttle buses, and to feed the players, and feed the caddies, and build the grandstands, and everything that it takes to run a PGA Tour event. 

Throughout the year we’re going out in the community, asking a company, “Are you interested in entertaining a client in a pro-am atmosphere? Or would you rather entertain them over the course of four days in a private chalet or a shared skybox? Or would you like to put your name on something? (The sponsor of the program or the on a hole sign or something like that.) So out of those three buckets comes our top line revenue, we pay our expenses, and we’re fortunate to have enough left over to make a charitable impact.

AJ: So what do you do for the rest of the year? You’ve talked about how the week of the tournament is structured and works but what about the rest of the year?

SJ: I look at it as, most of us as Executive Directors, Tournament Directors, are really kind of small business owners. We’ve got sales marketing operations, human resource considerations. We’re running 11,12,15,20 million dollar small businesses throughout the year. Once one tournament is over and there’s a little bit of cleanup, you’re turned around and you’re working almost immediately on the next year’s event. And I would even tell you that, once the train is going downhill on any current year event, you get to a point where you really can’t make any more changes but you’re already talking about changes for the next year. So it’s almost a 15-16 month cycle.

AJ: In a normal, non-covid year; a lot of fans see exactly what goes on in a tournament when you’re on the course. Outside of the ropes, give us a look at what else goes on during tournament week that people may not be aware of at home.

SJ: There’s just a lot of facets to it that all have to come in and work together. From a PGA Tour side, you have a rules advanced official that comes in the week before who’s marking the course and getting the golf course ready for the competition. Then you have operations folks from the tour coming in to work on things like roping and staking. A lot of time to the roping and staking for the spectator lines actually helps to protect the Golf Channel and the broadcast cable.

That’s another aspect, you have Golf Channel come in and there they are getting set up to do the production. On the country club side, there’s a variety of things that go on from a country club standpoint from the food and beverage preparation, getting everything clean, getting everything staged, and then the build out. We’re in a smaller community. Our build takes us about eight weeks. From the time that our vendors come in to build our structures and our tents, everything is about an eight week build time and then it takes us about four or five weeks to clean up.

AG: The town that you guys are in really comes together and rallies for this tournament. Anytime you have a tournament somewhere in the middle part of the country, it’s like the whole city is there and they’re really excited to have these pros there. Are you guys used to that yet or is the town still very excited every year when something like this happens?

SJ: No, I think everybody’s everybody’s pretty pumped up. This past year, you hate it, we have one of our best fields ever and spectators couldn’t see it but it was our second year as a standalone PGA Tour event which means all of the best players don’t have another event that they’re committed to. So we’re looking forward to another year. 

Each year the excitement level grows. We’re the only major league professional event in the state. You’ve got great college football, great college baseball, but we’re the only continual major league professional event. The community and all the surrounding communities, the city of Jackson, and all of this area, jumps in to support what we’re doing. 

I think we’re in a great spot in the fall. We’re always gonna be up against SEC football which is huge. But instead of worrying about whether they’re home or away, we’ve chosen to kind of embrace it. We do some things on site, tailgating, some video screens and say, “Come out to the Sanderson Farms Championship, you can also watch your college football…”

Watch the full interview here to learn more about the impact that a tournament like the Sanderson Farms Championship can have on a local area and to hear more about the meticulous planning that goes into hosting an event of this size.

Key Takeaway: A PGA Tour event goes far beyond the four days of play that you see during the week. The work is year round for the staff, the courses, and the communities that are hosting these events.