Mississippi’s amateur golfers received some splendid news Tuesday.

The state’s amateur champion will receive an exemption in the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms championship beginning in 2017.

Rick Cleveland Credit: Melanie Thortis

That means whoever wins the Mississippi Golf Association’s championship, slated for June 1-4 at Canebrake Country Club in Hattiesburg will gain entry into the Sanderson Farms Championship.

“We are very pleased to support amateur golf in Mississippi,” said Joe Frank Sanderson of Laurel, who has been active in amateur golf in Mississippi for decades.

No doubt, the exemption to the state’s amateur champ will greatly enhance the quality of the field for the State Am.

“It will make sure the State Am has the strongest field possible every year,” said 18-year-old Jackson golfing whiz Wilson Furr, who won the 2015 State Am at CCJ, but skipped the 2016 State Am to play in a national junior event.

In 2015, Furr won the State Am by eight shots with a 14-under par 274 total for 72 holes. The same score would have placed third in the Sanderson Farms tourney a few months later. Furr will play his college golf at Alabama.

The exemption should help attract top college players such as Davis Riley (Hattiesburg and Alabama) and Braden Thornberry (Olive Branch and Ole Miss) to play in the State Am.

MGA executive director Margo Coleman said she knows of no other PGA Tournament that makes such an allowance to a state golf association.

“This is an exciting day for Mississippi golf,” Coleman said. “We’ve got some very talented amateur golfers in this state, and this is going to really boost the status of our state amateur championship.”


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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.