Joe Sanderson, with the PGA Tour's Fed Ex Cup trophy on his left and the Sanderson Farms Championship trophy on his right. Credit: Rick Cleveland

Temperatures were much lower at last fall’s Sanderson Farms Championship, but the PGA tournament’s contribution to Batson Children’s Hospital, announced at a press conference Friday, has reached an all-time high.

Century Club Charities, the nonprofit host organization for the tournament, Friday presented a record, $1.2 million gift to Friends of Children’s Hospital. This year’s gift will go toward the nonprofit’s $20 million pledge to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, a philanthropic effort of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The campaign will help fund construction of a seven-story, 340,000-square-foot pediatric tower adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital.

The tower will be home to 88 private neonatal intensive care rooms, 10 additional operating rooms, more pediatric intensive care space, a pediatric imaging center, an outpatient clinic, and a new lobby. The Children’s Heart Center, representing the Medical Center’s pediatric cardiovascular program, will also call the new building home.

“The contribution from the 2017 tournament is incredible, and it will enable Friends to make a huge step toward fulfilling the goal of the capital campaign,” Sidney Allen, Friends of Children’s Hospital chairman of the board, said.

“The growth of Children’s of Mississippi will be transformational,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, said. “Our new children’s tower will match the incredible skills of our physicians and staff with the surroundings and technology needed to offer our children the best care close to home. UMMC’s missions of educating the next generation of physicians and innovation through research will be strengthened by this project, which will also attract more pediatric specialists to the state.”

Jeff Hubbard, chairman of the board of Century Club Charities, was also beaming.

“Having Sanderson Farms as our title sponsor enables us to proudly give our primary donation to Friends of Children’s Hospital, as well as a number of other donations to worthy Mississippi charities,” Hubbard said.

The $4.3 million Sanderson Farms Championship is Mississippi’s only annual stop on the PGA Tour. The tournament’s primary beneficiary is Friends of Children’s Hospital. The tournament has been part of the PGA TOUR schedule since 1968. Sanderson Farms, the nation’s third-largest poultry producer based in Laurel, is the title sponsor.

The tournament appeared all but dead until Joe Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms, saved it by becoming the title sponsor in 2013.

“Every year that Sanderson Farms is a part of this event, we grow more proud of all that it accomplishes and what that means to the state of Mississippi and the families and children who benefit from it,” Sanderson said Friday. “This year is no different. It is because of the sponsors, volunteers, and overall community support that an event of this magnitude has become such a success. We are proud of the money we have raised and the lives that will be changed for the better as a result of this good fortune.”

The 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship will be played Oct. 22-28 at Country Club of Jackson.

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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.