All hands on deck: Region welcomes the inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational

World-class talent; local merchants. Players from over 21 countries; over 60+ local food vendors. 144 talented women; over 800 volunteers. 72 LPGA teams; 36 local nonprofits in the Great Lakes Bay Region. To say that the inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational was both local and global would be an understatement.

From the television screen, the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational was similar to many other LPGA events – perfectly manicured, expertly planned, fiercely competitive and an all-around classic LPGA event. However, the reach of local partners for the event is just as diverse as the player’s home country list.

While the final tally of community impact won’t be available for weeks to come given events like the Eat Great Food Festival’s Restaurant Week runs through July 28, the impression from the tournament is sure to be significant.

LPGA player Lin Xiyu tees off.

With that impact in mind, the tournament set the goal of contributing more than $500,000 directly to the region, the tournament’s pre-play #TeamUp event partnered LPGA players with local leaders and regional nonprofits, to give away $200,000 in community contributions to local organizations.

Rallying 100 of the region’s most influential leaders, the #TeamUp event that took place on Tuesday of the week’s festivities also corresponded with a pink-out for breast cancer awareness, with the American Cancer Society’s partnership with the tournament.

The DGLBI was a green event, with an app over printed materials and plenty of recycling stations on the course.

Commenting on the opportunity to be a part of the area nonprofit organizations who were awarded donations, Dennis Pilaske, Executive Director of the Chippewa Nature Center, noted that the tournament’s values matched up well.

“For Chippewa Nature Center to be recognized for our contributions in this way, we were thrilled be selected as one of the partnering nonprofit organizations for the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational’s #TeamUp event,” says Pilaske. “We take great care in living our sustainability commitment each day in order to impact the Great Lakes Bay Region, so to be highlighted for this segment was an honor.”

Jamie Hockstra, Wichanee Meechai, Pornanong Phatlum and Dennis Pilaske meet at the Pairings Event at Dow Diamond.

“The tournament has further helped draw the communities in the region together and the #TeamUp community impact program really shows a commitment to including and giving back to local agencies,” continues Pilaske. “Our CNC staff and board volunteers had a great time meeting and cheering on our two teams throughout the event and we’re looking forward to seeing the positive impact the DGLBI will continue to have in the region for years to come.”

The #TeamUp event was a direct reflection of the mission of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational – to celebrate, enrich and support the community in which we live, positively impacting the region through charitable contributions and create sustainable growth.

With the goal of advancing the communities capabilities, talent and makeup, each of the participating nonprofits represented a regional stakeholder in area STEM, inclusion and diversity, innovation or sustainability efforts. The full list of non-profits in the Great Lakes Bay Region that participated in the #TeamUp event can be found here.

“This event provides a unique global platform to strengthen our community, align with Dow’s ambition, and celebrate the Great Lakes Bay Region and the people who make it great," says Chandler.

“We are enthusiastic about teaming up with LPGA players and integrating them into our community to support these important organizations,” said Chris Chandler, executive director of the Dow GLBI. “This event provides a unique global platform to strengthen our community, align with Dow’s ambition, and celebrate the Great Lakes Bay Region and the people who make it great.”

The tournament did more than just give back locally as well. The aim was for the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational to be a green, sustainable tournament, with many aspects taken into consideration, from offering a customized tournament app versus printed materials, having compostable options for things like cutlery to offering numerous recycle stations throughout the course.

Locally, the tournament and week-long set of activities was supported by numerous local businesses, both formally and informally. Regardless of the item, the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational worked with as many local vendors as possible in order to make the tournament a communal success.

The event welcomed 144 golfers and was supported by more than 800 volunteers.

Tents and structures from Three Rivers Corporation, individual steps counted by MidMichigan Health, safety provided for spectators from Great Lakes Bay Safety Training Center, and even selfie-stations from Midland Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery PC, to everything in between – the whole community was in on the build and preparation. On course, everything from coffee supplied by Coffee Chaos, to the Larkin Beer Garden moving on site for the week, to the Eat Great Hospitality Trail came from the region.

Course logistics were handled locally as well, as golf carts were supplied by Shark Carts of Midland.

Eric Shark, owner of Shark Carts in Midland said the order for the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational was his largest order to date.

Speaking about the community nature of the tournament, Shark commented that it felt like an event that truly required a group effort.

“I received the call that the tournament was looking to work with a partner locally, which I think is a phenomenal idea, both for rallying community support and giving back to the region,” says Shark. “It was an honor and a proud moment seeing the golf carts out there.”

72 LPGA teams joined 36 local nonprofits for the #TeamUp event.

That pairing and teamwork extended just as much into the playing field as well. The Canadian duo of Alena Sharp and Brooke Henderson, who dubbed themselves with the team name of “The A Team” for their northern roots, echoed what many other teams did during pre-tournament play.

“Our team goal is to keep it simple, stick to both of our strengths, play our own games and focus on attacking as we would during our normal games. We think that will make for a strong team,” says Sharp. “But most importantly, we both know that there is no ‘sorry’ out there.”

As in there is no such thing as a bad shot at this level – it’s all part of the game.

LPGA player Jennifer Kupcho walks off the course with a smile.

Both women grew up playing hockey, so are no strangers to pressure and both have a mean swing. That mindset seemed to work, because after their Pro-Am day playing for the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy, the Canadian duo topped the leaderboard after the first day’s official results were in and stood tied for fourth after the second.

Regardless of which team you’re rooting for or whether or not you’re even a golf fan, it’s clear that we’re all locally invested, cheering on our favorite team, sponsor, partner or nonprofit, watching the Inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational as it wraps on the final tee.

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Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. She ran Catalyst Midland as the publication's managing editor from October 2017 through September 2020. Her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner.