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January 9, 2013

South Georgia Classic under new leadership

VALDOSTA — Joerdan Simpson described his first few weeks at his new job as hectic, but fun.

After all, the 22-year-old went from being a Samford University graduate in May to being named the new tournament director for the South Georgia Classic in Valdosta.

“Very chaotic, very hectic with the holidays,” Simpson said, describing his transition into his new job. “It has been an interesting transition to say the least. We found out about the transition about two months ago; David took off and we had about two weeks where nobody was in the office. The holidays made things very interesting, but I’m excited to be here and glad the transition is over.”

Simpson takes over the position after serving in various roles with Bruno Marketing, the company in charge of running the South Georgia Classic. He replaces previous director David Fox, who was promoted to sales and operational duties for the 2014 BMW Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colo.

Despite the hectic transition, which has included him moving from Birmingham, Ala. to Valdosta just two weeks before Christmas, proposing to his girlfriend and unpacking his new office — which he admits is still a work in progress — Simpson is excited about his new job and the possibilities it brings.

“I’m looking forward to being here in South Georgia,” said Simpson, who majored in Sports Administration and Business at Samford. “Valdosta is an awesome city. I’ve met a lot of great people and I am just really looking forward to getting involved with the community and see what is has to offer and see what we can do with the South Georgia Classic.”

Simpson is joined in the South Georgia Classic offices, located off Brookwood Drive near Valdosta State University, by Greg Powell, a Valdosta native that has assumed a position in assisting with the development of the tournament.

“I’m more community involvement,” said Powell, a graduate of Valdosta High School and Valdosta State. “I’m from Valdosta. I love the community. I’m excited about the opportunity to engage the community and get the community excited about the golf tournament.”

With both tournament organizers being new to the job, there are several obstacles standing in the way.

One of the challenges is the lack of large sponsorship possibilities, says Simpson.

“Bringing in the funding for the tournament is a challenge,” Simpson said. “There are a lot of possibilities in Valdosta and there is a lot we can do for the city and the South Georgia Medical Center.”

While the South Georgia Classic brings in roughly $3 million in local revenue the week of the event, the tournament’s economic impact can also be felt for what it does for South Georgia Medical Center.

All of the money the tournament raises, above expenses, are given to the hospital.

“At the end of the day, most of what we do is raise money for the hospital,” Simpson said. “We are trying to give back to the community as much as possible.”

Along with helping raise money to benefit SGMC, this year’s South Georgia Classic will also benefit other local charities. Building on what was started last year, any charity wishing to sell tickets for the event will be able to keep the proceeds for its own use.

“We want to make it a big deal this year,” Simpson said. “We make no money off ticket sales. All the proceeds off ticket sales go to charities. David started it last year and it is something we really want to harp on this year...With ticket sales, what we are really trying to do, is give back to Valdosta and get people back to the tournament.”

This year, the South Georgia Classic is scheduled for April 22-28 at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club. Simpson believes the competition in this year’s event will be at an all-time high because of the new PGA TOUR qualifying procedures.

“In the past, with how the Nationwide Tour was set up, you could market names and tell people who was going to be here, but (fans) would never know who they were going to be,” Simpson said. “With the new restructuring of the Web.com Tour and the fact that there are only 25 tournaments this year and that players can only get on to the PGA TOUR by playing on the Web.com Tour, the best of the best are going to be here competing all year long...I think it is going to be a really exciting year for the Web.com Tour and what is has to offer.”

The excitement of the tournament will be around for the next coming years, too. Recently, the South Georgia Classic announced a two-year contract extension with First State Bank and Trust Company and the South Georgia Medical Center, guaranteeing the event will stay in Valdosta through 2014.

When asked whether or not he could add to that excitement, Simpson, a golfer for his high school in Tennessee, said he could “hold his own” if he had a month to prepare.

“If you give me a month straight to practice,” Simpson said. “If I just stood on the practice range for a month, maybe I’d be able to hold my own...(Kinderlou) is a tough course.”

For those interested in volunteering for this year’s South Georgia Classic, volunteer registration is now underway. To register, visit the tournament’s Web site, www.southgeorgiaclassic.com.

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