The 2022 LPGA season will be one for the history books. LPGA players will be competing for over $86 million in official prize money while traveling across the globe to different events. One of those stops includes the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Midland, Michigan, which has one of the highest tournament purses on the LPGA Tour. With a 2022 purse of $2.5 million, this LPGA team event was introduced to the schedule in 2019. The Dow GLBI has also provided unique programming through junior golf initiatives and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
LPGA Leadership Academy
Dow GLBI Executive Director Chris Chandler was approached by The LPGA Foundation President Nancy Henderson about hosting the LPGA Leadership Academy in the Great Lakes Bay Region in 2018. The LPGA Leadership Academy began in 2015 to engage teenage girls in golf and provide them with the framework to develop their confidence, communication, and leadership skills. Chandler said that the LPGA saw the initiatives that Dow GLBI was implementing and thought the LPGA Leadership Academy would be a great asset.
“I thought the LPGA Leadership Academy provided a really nice extension to all of the junior golf initiatives we were embarking on with The First Tee,” Chandler said. “We saw the LPGA Leadership Academy as a really unique opportunity to create more future women leaders right here in the Great Lakes Bay Region. It was awesome that we could do this through the game of golf.”
LPGA Leadership Academy
A total of 40 participants (ages 13 – 18) are selected to participate in the LPGA Leadership Academy. The Dow GLBI has committed to having the event travel around the Great Lakes Bay Region. The third LPGA Leadership Academy in the Region will be hosted at Saginaw Country Club in 2022.
Chandler said many of the girls walk away saying this was a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime experience. He reflected on a letter that the LPGA received in October 2019 from a young girl that was part of the program at Midland Country Club. The participant mentioned that after facing some struggles in high school sports, she realized how much of an impact the program had on her.
“She went on a run one day and started thinking all of the skills she had learned at the LPGA Leadership Academy,” Chandler said. “After she got back, that moment of reflection really changed her mind set and her actions on how she approached difficult situations. It was incredible to hear about the impact that the LPGA Leadership Academy had on that young girl’s life.”
The First Tee of Eastern Michigan
In addition to programming for young women, the Dow GLBI has also teamed up with The First Tee of Eastern Michigan. Chandler said it was the Dow GLBI that helped make The First Tee chapter possible through events, programming, and community impact dollars. The Dow GLBI team worked with The First Tee of Eastern Michigan’s Executive Director Joe Simpson to get the Great Lakes Bay Region included in The First Tee of Eastern Michigan chapter.
With Simpson’s help, Chandler said the Dow GLBI and The First Tee of Eastern Michigan decided they needed to reach kids in schools, and they wanted to provide summer programming for kids to play golf. The First Tee has a National School Program where indoor-friendly golf kits can be purchased for schools. These kits train P.E. teachers on integrating golf programming into their curriculum. Chandler noted they are continuing to look at ways to expand The First Tee across the Great Lakes Bay Region.
“It is a very purposeful program that teaches life skills along with the game of golf,” Chandler said. “So, kids are learning about honesty, integrity and respect while participating in putting drills.”
First Tee Junior Clinic
SOAR Leadership Summit
In addition to introducing young people to golf, the Dow GLBI provides a unique opportunity to have important dialogue on inclusion, diversity, and equity through the SOAR Leadership Summit. Hosted by Dow’s Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Inclusion Officer Karen S. Carter, SOAR is an inclusion leadership event designed to provoke fresh thinking and propel forward on the path to creating ever-more-inclusive workplaces.
“One of the big ideas from the start is that we’re not only going to talk about what needs to be done for us as a company, community, and world,” Chandler said. “Karen was very adamant about providing resources, tools, and information for people to take back to their businesses and communities to drive actionable change.”
The Dow GLBI also began a partnership with Midnight Golf. Chandler said this organization gives inner city kids a chance to go to the golf course to not only learn golf, but also provide a purposeful place to go after school. Ninety-eight percent of Midnight Golf members are college-bound. Chandler said the tournament wanted to give Midnight Golf the unique opportunity to bring some of their members to watch the best players in the world at a professional golf tournament. Midnight Golf members also learned about a variety of sports careers through the LPGA Career Day at the Dow GLBI.
Overall, Chandler said he is most proud of the Dow GLBI’s community impact and the support the tournament has received.
“Beyond the dollars that we give back our 36 charities, it’s also the suppliers and partners who help make this event possible along the way,” Chandler said. “We have over 250 partners at the Dow GLBI. We’ve been able to truly engage a variety of people—from families to kids and nonprofits. It is great to look back and see what we’ve accomplished as an event and community.”