Ann Arbor — What started as a dream for tournament director Keith Karbo has turned into one of the top events on the LGPA Tour.
And with a new partnership heading into year three, the Volvik Championship could soon become an even bigger event that has a reach that goes far beyond golf.
That’s because this year’s event, which runs May 24-27 at Travis Pointe Country Club, will be joined by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Congenital Heart Center in hosting a pro-am on the Monday of tournament week with all proceeds going to the hospital.
“I think it’s very important,” said Dr. John Charpie, professor and director of pediatric cardiology. “First of all, to have an incredible world class event like this, and to have an important charitable component for the children’s hospital is tremendously meaningful. It’s so impactful in terms of research, in terms of things we can do to improve the lives of children with heart disease.”
It’s also just step No. 1 in what Charpie hopes leads to the hospital becoming a presenting sponsor of an event, much like FedEx St. Jude Classic on the PGA Tour.
“This is the first step,” Charpie said during the tournament’s media day. “I talked early on with the LPGA and met with Commissioner (Mike) Whan and really expressed our desire to really want to be a children’s hospital that has that brand name just like St. Jude does and to have the opportunity to partner with this professional tournament and build that over time is something we couldn’t turn our backs on.
“So, we really started out with the idea of doing this Monday pro-am and try to build the nucleus that we could hopefully have a full presenting sponsorship or future co-presenting sponsorship for a tournament. The Mott Children’s Hospital Championship.”
It would seem like the Volvik Championship would be the perfect tournament. Of course, the event already has a presenting sponsor as Volvik’s agreement runs through this year’s tournament, the last of the initial three-year deal.
The agreement has been fruitful for Volvik, a golf ball manufacturer based in Korea that has seen its market share double in the time it has sponsored the tournament. But whether or not the company will re-up is something that hasn’t been determined.
According to Joe Young, national sales director for Volvik, a decision hasn’t been made.
“They’re working on that in Korea,” Young said. “So they’re looking at their entire breadth of worldwide expenditures.”
Young did reiterate the benefits of their sponsorship.
“This has been probably our biggest international effort,” Young said. “Over the course of the last two years we’ve doubled our market share worldwide and we think it has a lot to do with our sponsorship of this event. The community in Michigan is very influential with golf around the country.”
The door would seem to be open for Mott Children’s Hospital and Charpie hopes it comes to fruition.
“Ideally we’d like to try to do it for 2019, but Michigan is a conservative institution and to get them to commit takes a little arm-twisting and a little work,” Charpie said. “But we’re working on it right now. I think if we show success in this first year with the pro-am it’s just a stepping stone to a bigger partnership.”
As for this year’s event, Karbo says ticket sales have already far exceeded the first two years of the event and the number of corporate sponsors has also increased.
On the course, six of the top 10 golfers in the world rankings, including defending champion Shanshan Feng (No. 2 in the world) and 2016 champion Ariya Jutanugarn (No. 6).
Other notable names already committed include Christie Kerr, Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang, Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome.
“We’re building something great here,” Karbo said. “We continue to host one of the best tournaments on the LPGA Tour and that is not us talking. That’s the media, that’s the Golf Channel, that’s the LPGA, that’s the players. They truly enjoy coming to Ann Arbor.
“We have the ideal location and a model event for the LPGA.”
When: May 24-27
Where: Travis Pointe Country Club, Ann Arbor
Purse: $1.3 million
TV: 7-9 p.m. May 24-25, Golf Channel
Notable: This is the third year of the event at Travis Pointe. Shanshan Feng won last year’s event at 20-under-par 268.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Wells Fargo Championship
Course: Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, N.C.; 7,554 yards, par 71
Purse: $7.7 million; winner’s share: $1,386,000
TV: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. (GC); Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC); 3-6 p.m. (CB).
Defending champion: Brian Harman.
Notes: Tiger Woods is playing Quail Hollow for the first time since 2012. It is the only regular PGA Tour event where he has missed the 36-hole cut twice.
Volunteers of America Texas Classic
Course: Old American Golf Club, The Colony, Texas; 6,475 yards, par 71
Purse: $1.3 million; winner’s share: $195,000
TV: Thursday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (GC); Saturday-Sunday, 5:30-8 p.m. (GC)
Defending champion: Haru Nomura
Course: TPC Woodlands, The Woodlands, Texas; 7,018 yards, par 72
Purse: $2.2 million; winner’s share: $330,000.
TV: Friday, 6-8 p.m. (GC); Saturday-Sunday, 3-5:30 p.m. (GC)
Defending champion: John Daly