Great Lakes Bay Invitational brings fun, team event to Midland, LPGA Tour

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Midland — The walk-up music is back, as are the unique team names.

After having the tournament canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Lakes Bay Invitational is ready to tee of on Wednesday at Midland Country Club.

Nelly Korda, the No. 1 player in the world, will be competing in Midland.

The two-player team event that debuted on the LPGA Tour in 2019 was a hit with the players, and despite some wet weather that helped douse part of the pro-am on Tuesday, the excitement for the tournament was hard to extinguish.

“It's exciting,” said Cydney Clanton, who teamed with Jasmine Suwannapura to win the inaugural tournament. “The community was so awesome the first time we were here. The fact that we were going to be able to be back with fans and all their support, it's going to be a really good week.

“Hopefully the weather pans out for us, but we’re really excited to be here. Obviously brings up super good memories. We played so good two years ago. It was a lot of fun and it was fun playing our practice round, rehashing some memories of, ‘Did you make this putt on Thursday? No, you made it on Saturday.’ So was it a lot of fun yesterday playing a practice round together.”

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It’s clearly a big event for the area, which supported the tournament well two years ago before going without last summer.

But it’s also quickly become a big event on the LGPA Tour. With many of the top players heading up the road from Sylvania, Ohio, where last week’s Marathon Classic was played and many more heading into town before a big final stretch to the season, the Great Lakes Bay Invitational, which concludes on Saturday, has an impressive field.

Eight of the top-10 players in the world are in the field, led by No. 1 Nelly Korda, playing for the first time since becoming a major champion at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, as well as 13 of this season’s 15 winners on tour. Korda is partnering with her sister, Jessica, ranked No. 13 in the world, while plenty of other big names are on hand, including Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang and Brooke Henderson.

Also in the field is Flint native Shasta Averyhardt, who along with Anita Uwadia of Fort Worth, Texas, earned a spot in the field after winning the John Shippen Invitational earlier this month at Detroit Golf Club the week of the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic.

They’ll all have partners in the only regular team event on the Tour.

“I personally love team events,” said Kang, who is teaming with world No. 10 Lydia Ko. “You got to win together, and it's so much more fun to win together and play together. Losing together, making mistakes together, whatever it may be, you don't feel so you alone. The (other) person, they go through exactly what you're going through. Golf is a pretty lonely sport, right? You have your caddie and your team, but at the end of the day when you win you win alone.

“But that's why I just absolutely love team games. I just want her to know I have her back and we can just rely on each other and go out there and do the best we can. That's all you can ask for.”

In addition to the team aspect of the tournament, the fun atmosphere is ramped up with each team coming up with their own name as well as using walk-up music on the first tee.

The defending champions call themselves “All In,” while Kang and Lydia Ko went with “Sisters from another Mister.”

“We thought really hard for the name,” Kang said. “It was difficult to come up with, but she's like family, so she thought of Ko-Kang, but then we changed that a little bit.”

As for the song, Kang and Ko were tight-lipped. Instead, they hoped plenty of folks would show up for that first tee shot and dropped a quick hint.

“It’s spicy,” Ko said with a laugh.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau