Fuzzy might be near the bottom of a list for words that would describe an alligator.
But not in Jackson.
Fuzzy (which may or may not be the gator pictured above) became the only named alligator at The Country Club of Jackson according to Head Golf Professional Jason Prendergast ahead of this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship.
“One of my assistants was out giving a junior golf lesson, and they ran into [an alligator], and he named it ‘Fuzzy,'” Prendergast said. “So that’s the only alligator that I’m aware of that’s been ever named out here.”
Prendergast, who started at The Country Club in 2004, spotted his first gator within two years.
Now, about 10 gators occupy the bodies of water at the course.
“The members certainly look for [gators] as they’re playing,” Prendergast said.
Signs warn golfers not to stand near the ponds’ edges. According to Prendergast, a large alligator looms on the left side of No. 16, and another large gator on the left side of No. 17, and hole No. 2 on the Cypress Nine.
“Sometimes you have to be a little nervous when you walk over by a pond’s edge to just make sure that there’s not one — just out of sight,” Prendergast said. “But in general, they’re more afraid of us than we are of them, and when they see you they scurry themselves down into the water. And it gets a little spooky, because they’ll submerge and disappear, and you don’t exactly know where they are when they go under.”
Once the gator becomes too large or its attitude becomes too skittish, the Country Club has The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks remove if from the premises.
The Country Club of Jackson called the MDWFP earlier this spring to remove an alligator, and they found an interesting surprise.
“The tag showed that the alligator had already been removed from our property one time before,” Prendergast said. “So I’m not sure where they moved that alligator to – if they moved it up into the reservoir somewhere – but ultimately, that gator had been removed once before, a year or two earlier from our property, and it came back. I guess: They find home somehow.”
Junior programs for Crocs and Gators
The Country Club of Jackson’s junior program began with two names; “Crocs,” for children ages 3-9, and “Gators” for juniors 10-and-up. An alligator head with a golf ball in its mouth is the logo for the program.
“The junior program grew from those two names,” Prendergast said. “Now, we have a National Junior event here at the club, and it’s still referred to as ‘The Gator.'”
The Gator Invitational Junior Championship began as a high school team event for schools in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky. Arkansas and Georgia from 2013-2017.
It transitioned to an elite individual championship In 2018, and the field has featured players from 25 states and six countries – Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Thailand, China and South Korea.
More than 100 Gator alums have played at, or committed to, the collegiate level.
According to the Gator’s Co-Chairman Mark Markow, the 2020 event was canceled due to the historic flooding in the Jackson area, but it was scheduled to be held March 12-15, a time where the COVID-19 pandemic started to become a pressing issue.
The event is still finalizing a date for 2021.
“Typically, this event is done in late February or early March, Predergast said, but we’re looking at late summer, early fall, with the hopes of getting through COVID.”
Five Gator alums have competed in the Sanderson Farms Championship: Camden Backel, Ross Bell, Wilson Furr, Braden Thornberry and Hayden Buckley.
Isaiah Jackson will become the sixth when he tees off at 2:50 (ET) on Thursday.