William McGirt would like to be teeing it up today in the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss., but he isn’t eligible to do so — a victim, interestingly enough, of the Fairmont native’s success on the PGA Tour.
But McGirt did play yesterday in the tournament’s pro-am event, doing so as a show of support for the title sponsor, which is well known around Robeson County after building a chicken-processing plant on N.C. 20 near St. Pauls where more than a thousand people will eventually work, as well as a corporate facility on N.C. 41 near Lumberton, where there are already about 80 good-paying jobs.
That is one of the reasons McGirt played yesterday, as a thank you to Sanderson Farms and its chief executive Joe Sanderson Jr.
“The first reason I came is because Mr. Sanderson made a commitment to this tournament for 10 years,” McGirt said of his unique pro-am appearance. “The second was for making huge investments back in the area where I grew up. … That area desperately needs jobs.”
Actually McGirt’s pro-am appearance in a tournament in which he is not in the field is not unique. He did the exact same thing last year. But no one remembers another PGA player doing the same, though it’s possible that it has happened before. Understand that pro-ams are when the professionals tee it up with the weekend hackers, and although a good time can be had, it isn’t a guarantee. There are plenty of professional golfers who choose to opt out when that is an option.
McGirt chose to opt in, although another option was spending the time at his Spartanburg, S.C., home with his wife and two young children.
The reason McGirt can’t tee it up at the Sanderson tournament is because he won The Memorial tournament, Jack Nicklaus’ baby, last year, and therefore became eligible for World Golf Championship events, which feature the top players in the world, big purses and guaranteed checks. This week’s WGC event is in China, and one thing McGirt has demonstrated since turning professional is he prefers to take his divots in the US of A. The notable exception, the British Open, he has played in twice.
The PGA, in an effort to protect the WGC events and their sponsors, forbids its members from skipping one of the events to play in what is generally considered the less-prestigous PGA event that shares the same dates.
Although McGirt has won $9.7 million since joining the PGA Tour in 2011 and probably doesn’t need the money, skipping the WGC event comes with a cost. The money is guaranteed as the field is limited and there is no cut, and he also forgoes FedEx Cup points that could be precious near the end of next season.
We commend McGirt for his commitment to Sanderson Farms, especially since the Fortune 500 company has invested heavily in Robeson County and its people. We share this story mostly because we felt it was a good one, worthy of being broadcast.