Dow Invitational Puts Focus on Community, Youth
By Rich Adams
The LPGA Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational tournament tees off next month at Midland Country Club, ushering in a whole new ballgame for the 69-year-old professional women’s golf organization.
When Dow Chemical Co. officials began serious consideration of hosting an LPGA event at the Midland Country Club a few years ago, the innovative chemical company wanted to come up with an innovative format for the tournament, said Chris Chandler, executive director of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
“Primarily we saw this as another thing we can bring to the region to help build the community, something we could do to attract people to the community and give back to the community,” Chandler said. “Secondarily, we asked how this event could help us tell our Dow story, the things we talk about like inclusion, STEM, sustainability and innovation. Dow does think differently and we want to do things better.
“So we took that mantra of innovation and went to the LPGA and said we had something different, something we thought would be successful,” he continued. “Here is the team concept. LPGA golfers had never done anything like this before for official money and official points.”
Soon the concept evolved, and on July 17, 142 golfers on 72 teams will follow a new format for a $2 million purse. The first and third days of golf will be based on an alternate shot concept and the second and fourth days of the tournament will follow a best-ball format.
Soon the team concept picked up steam and the Dow tournament officials found themselves in a four-hour meeting with the LPGA rules-makers hammering out guidelines for the new team format.
“We sat in the room for half a day and had to write out the rules, because there were no rules for team play – they had never done team play,” Chandler said. “We had to decide how the players pick teams, who qualifies to golf – the qualifications are different – and what do you do if a team drops out?”
The golfers are intrigued by the prospect of team play as well. LPGA veteran Suzann Pettersen, who has enjoyed a Dow sponsorship, said just choosing teams is going to be a new experience.
“It’s going to be a very cool and different event,” Pettersen, a tour pro since 2003 with 15 career wins, including two majors, told the Midland Daily News. “It will be fun to pick your partner and team up with a good friend or maybe even a feisty competitor for the week and try to win it.”
Chandler said Dow is not just focusing on the pros. Admission to the four-day event will be very affordable, with an emphasis on exposing younger people to the game of golf. Through the First Tee youth golf program, Dow has partnered with Currie Golf Course and Dow Gardens and Canopy Walk to give children a unique golf experience. There also will be a youth STEM center focusing on the use of science, technology, engineering and math as it applies to sports.
Chandler said the tournament will have a significant economic impact on the region, bringing an estimated $12 million to $15 million to the area just during the week of the tournament.
Admission to the practice round and pro-am event July 15-16 is free. General admission for the tournament itself is $10 each day, with children 17 and under admitted free with a ticketed adult, Chandler said.
Another element of the tournament is the Eat Great food festival, bringing in restaurants, breweries, wineries and more from Midland, Saginaw, Isabella and Bay counties.
For more information on the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, go to the website at dowglbi.com.
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