MIDLAND (WJRT) - (05/10/18) - The Dow Chemical Co. and the Ladies Professional Golf Association are bringing a new tournament to Midland.
It's called the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. The tournament will be played at the Midland Country Club July 17 to 20, 2019.
The team format tournament is a new event for the LPGA Tour, as well as for the Midland Country Club.
The country club opened in 1928 and this is the first tournament of this magnitude.
Dow and the LPGA emphasized that the tournament is designed to showcase the region.
"It's the Great Lakes Bay Invitational on purpose. It's about the entire region, and it's about building community in the entire region," said Jim Fitterling, Dow's CEO-elect.
The regional focus was evident during Thurday's announcement with Fitterling and Jon Podany, the LPGA's chief commercial officer. Dow set up live feeds from Bay City, Saginaw, Mount Pleasant and Midland to allow other employees and community partners to share in the excitement.
"It's not just a golf tournament where you come watch golf, it's really a happening that week, in a way to bring the community together," Podany said.
He added at many tournaments there are food festivals, concerts and charity events, designed to involve people who might not even be interested in the game of golf.
This tournament will come on the heels of DowDuPont's expected spin-offs of three separate companies. Midland will be home to the Material Sciences Division, which will encompass much of Dow's existing footprint in the region.
The tournament will be a chance to showcase changes to Dow as well as the entire region.
"Michigan's a comeback story right now. Everybody talks about Detroit, but this region is a comeback story as well, this is a hidden gem that people don't know about in Michigan and we want to make sure they have an opportunity to see that," Fitterling said.
The tournament is expected to bring $12 million to 15 million in economic activity to the region, according to the LPGA.
"It's a lot of money, hopefully we can see a small part of that, that would be great and hopefully downtown Midland will be better for it," said Nick Gillette, assistant manager at Heather 'n Holly in downtown Midland.
Heather 'n Holly is just one small business which could benefit from the people the tournament will bring to town.
"Think of us as a traveling road show," Podany said. "There will be 144 players in the field and each of those players has a caddie. A lot of them have family that travel with them. We have LPGA staff that comes into town. Golf Channel brings a whole production crew in."
He said that doesn't count all the fans who come in from around the region, many staying in hotels and eating out at area restaurants. The tournament also will be hiring people for security, printing and other ancillary services.
"I imagine that the hotel will be full and it will bring people down here," Gillette said.
While the big influx of visitors won't be until next summer, Fitterling said Thursday's announcement is just the beginning. "You're going to see events throughout the year, we talked about Brittany Lincicome dropping the puck at a Saginaw Spirit game," he said.
Preparations are already underway at the country club too. The course will be seen on TV in over 170 countries.
"We'll work with the LPGA agronomist just to make sure that the rough is thick and the greens are fast and that the course is set up to be a challenge," said Todd Beals, general manager of the Midland Country Club.
Beals said locally they'll need about 750 volunteers, so there will be opportunities for people, businesses and charities to get involved.
"We want to be a gracious host, we want to have great golf conditions, but we really want to welcome the community and just have a great event," Beals said.
The next generation of golfers and possible Dow employees will get special treatment at the tournament. Admission for kids will be free.
In addition, STEM education will be part of the event. Dow has events and programs planned to show there are STEM lessons in the game of golf. "To understanding how the face of each club provides different types of lift, spin and distance," said one Dow employee on a live feed during the event.
The tournament will be in Midland for at least the next five years.