MIDLAND (WJRT) - (07/18/19) - Long before the players and the fans arrived at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational there was a plan in place to keep everyone safe.
Midland Police have been working with tournament organizers, the LPGA and the Midland Country Club for more than a year for the inaugural event.
"With constant planning, scheduling and trying to determine what we need, where we need to put the officers and potential issues," explained Lt. Mike Sokol with the Midland Police Department. He's leading the effort from the incident commander center inside the club.
Sokol is joined by representatives from Midland County Central Dispatch and EMS.
Some of the safety measures you see playing out on the course came from a recent visit to the Meijer LPGA Classic to see how the Kent County Sheriff's Office handled their event.
Lt. Sokol was one of the officers to attend the Grand Rapids event.
"We were able to get first hand knowledge from the incident commanders over there, about what the issues are, what they've dealt with in the past," Lt. Sokol said.
One of the top priorities is player safety. While the majority of fans are here to cheer, some can cause problems.
"We've been prepped on that from the LPGA, they're very familiar and they're very educated," Sokol said.
The visit to Grand Rapids really showed Midland Police the true need for a proactive traffic and parking plan. Parking is prohibited and limited on many nearby streets. Traffic is also restricted leading up to the golf course.
"We knew that was going to be an issue, but we didn't know it was going to be such an issue," Sokol said.
Keeping people safe during the tournament also means helping protect them from the elements.
Police, EMS, tournament officials, and volunteers are emphasizing the need for everyone to drink plenty of water and find some shade.
"We have elderly all the way down to small children, and so we really are trying to focus on making sure they know where the water stations are and where EMS stations are," Sokol said.
Officers aren't immune from the elements. So during the tournament they're wearing bike uniforms to be more visible and much cooler. "With this weather, they're in golf carts and they're finding some shade if they need a break," Sokol said.
And while there is a team of police officers at the country club, there are other officers making sure everyone follows the parking rules. That's in addition to the officers doing their regular patrols.