Farm Bureau tourney has rich history

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2001

The Gulf States Professional Golf Association – the branch of the PGA which oversees operations in Mississippi and Louisiana – is preparing for a unique event next week. And it’s taking place right here in Natchez.

Beau Pr\u00E9 Country Club will host The Farm Bureau Invitational July 19-22. The event is a four-day, stroke-play tournament with 160 participants. The event is open to Mississippi club professionals, golfers with low handicaps and select amateurs from the state tour. No other state in the nation holds an event such as this one.

&uot;It’s the only event, that I know of, where pros and amateurs tee it up head-to-head,&uot; said Robert Garner, the executive director of the Gulf States PGA who is helping to coordinate the event.

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The tournament has taken place since 1972, when the event was known as the Mississippi Open. At that time, only golfers who belonged to golf clubs that employed a PGA professional or a Mississippi PGA member were allowed to participate, along with the club pros. But over the years, the MPGA has invited more amateurs to the tourney.

&uot;We’ve opened up the field to make it stronger because there are some great Mississippi amateurs,&uot; Garner said.

This year, 28 amateurs will play. In fact, the past four winners have been amateur players. &uot;The amateurs have been clocking us recently,&uot; Garner said.

The Farm Bureau has been the main sponsor of the event for the past six years. Sunburst Bank, SkyTel and Michelob have been past sponsors. The tournament has been hosted by cities all over the state, with Philadelphia, Clarksdale, Madison, Laurel and Canton being the past five towns to stage the tourney.

Garner said the reason the tournament has been so successful in Mississippi is because of the strong corporate and public support. Sponsors have been loyal and golf clubs are anxious to host the events.

&uot;Sponsors are hard to get, and it calls for the right mix of people,&uot; Garner said.

The tourney may also be heading a better direction, thanks to Beau Pr\u00E9. The club’s preparation and excitement to hold the event should make players happy and keep them coming back for following tourneys. Beau Pr\u00E9 is setting up the course to cater to the players, with drinks available throughout play, more marshals and more people to spot balls, among other things.

&uot;Players ought to see the difference because of the commitment Beau Pr\u00E9 has put in,&uot; Garner said. &uot;They’re really going above and beyond to put on a good show.&uot;