Why the Sanderson Farms Championship is more than just another PGA Tour event for past champ Peter Malnati

JACKSON, Miss. — Peter Malnati was born in Indiana, grew up in east Tennessee, attended the University Missouri and now lives in Knoxville when he’s not living his dream on the PGA Tour.

So why does Mississippi’s capital city hold such a special place in his heart?

The 34-year-old’s life changed when he arrived for the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship at Country Club of Jackson, both on and off the golf course. He earned his first win on Tour – a one-shot victory over William McGirt and David Toms in a Monday finish – made life-long new friends and tapped into his charitable side.

“I stayed with a family on the course and they have become my family, too, to my wife and I, now our little boy,” Malnati said on Tuesday ahead of the 2021 Sanderson Farms. “So it’s just feels like we’re among family when we are here.”

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Check the yardage book: Country Club of Jackson for Sanderson Farms Championship

Puttview CC of Jackson

Puttview CC of Jackson

His golf isn’t bad here, either. In addition to his 2015 win, Malnati finished runner-up – also by just one shot – to Sergio Garcia after a 9-under 63 in the final round. Comfort goes a long way on Tour, and the Bermuda fairways and rough have Malnati feeling right at home on, what he calls, some of the best greens not just on Tour, but in the world.

“I would say we are lucky on Tour, we play some of the best golf courses in the most pristine condition all the time, but the greens here are the best greens in the whole world, they’re just impeccable,” said Malnati. “They are flawless and they roll, they’re really fast and I think that’s something that has always benefited me.

“I’m a really good putter, I feel like, and if I get some putts going in early on these greens I just feel really confident and it’s just a really comfortable feeling to be on these greens.”

Malnati returns to Mississippi in good form following a T-25 last week at the Fortinet Championship, the first event of the new season, and he knows the importance of getting off to a hot start and how it can alleviate the pressure to perform to remain on Tour.

“But the other thing it does which is exciting is it opens up the events to which you have access,” explained Malnati. “So last year I got to play in the PGA Championship, which was really cool. I got to play in the invitational events that are hosted by the late Mr. Palmer and Mr. Nicklaus.

“That’s something that as a Tour player I dreamed of, just being on the PGA Tour, but you also dream of getting to play in those kind of events where, you think of the legacy of Mr. Palmer, and then obviously still getting to shake Mr. Nicklaus’s hand at the Memorial every year. So something like that is really cool.”

Even cooler is his work off the course, where Malnati was recently named an ambassador for Play Yellow and works with the Children’s of Mississippi and Children’s Miracle Networks Hospital.

It started in 2013 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, Ohio. Malnati was asked to do a junior clinic the week of the event with patients from Nationwide Children’s

“I was able to connect with the parents of one of the young girls who was there at that clinic and got to know them and their story and hear how the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, had really honestly saved their daughter’s life. And just the incredible impact that that had on their family,” Malnati said.

“To know that the golf tournament was supporting that hospital was really cool for me, it was like an eye-opening moment like, ‘Gosh, we really are, we’re doing some good.’ And not just playing golf for entertainment, like we’re actually doing some good.”

After his win in 2015, Malnati came back early in 2016 to do some media for the event and visited the children’s hospital.

“But since then we went to the hospital, I think for a couple years in a row we went and visited some of the patients and just saw how thankful they are for this tournament, how much this tournament really does give back to this community. And so, gosh, to be a part of something that is really making a meaningful impact through this game of golf that I love, gosh, it just means so much and it gives such depth to what we do out here every week.”