'Match made in heaven': LPGA's Midland tournament gets extension through 2029

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The LPGA has found a home in Midland.

The Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, set for its third playing this week at Midland Country Club, has been extended through 2029, both parties announced Monday. Year 3 is considered the make-or-break year for newer LPGA events, and the extension is among the longest on the LPGA schedule.

“As we celebrate our 125th Anniversary, I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off this year’s event and look ahead to the future than by sharing the news of Dow’s continued commitment to the Great Lakes Bay Region and to the LPGA Tour,” Jim Fitterling, Dow chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Our partnership with the LPGA Tour continues to be a perfect platform for us to positively impact our region while showcasing our efforts in sustainability and inclusion as well as our customer-centric approach to doing business.

"And we couldn’t have accomplished any of this without the support of our many community partners.”

Ariya Jutanugarn won the 2021 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational with older sister Moriya.

The Midland LPGA tournament is unique, in that it's the LPGA's lone team event. This week, 72 two-player teams will compete for the Midland-record $2.5 million purse, with the biggest names in women's golf prioritizing the stop in Midland — including the Korda sisters, Nelly and Jessica, teaming up again.

There are even some legends making the trip, including World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, who will play with fellow Swede Madelene Sagström, as well as Sorenstam's prime-years rival, Karrie Webb, playing with Marina Alex.

The tournament runs Wednesday through Saturday, finishing a day earlier than normal, so it won't compete with the final round of the British Open. The final round will be broadcast on CBS from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Midland LPGA stop is one of two in Michigan, along with the popular Meijer LPGA Classic, outside Grand Rapids. Previously, the Volvik LPGA Championship was in Ann Arbor for 2016-18.

In Midland, fans are treated to a party-like atmosphere, with teams using walk-up music on the first tee, much like a baseball player stepping into the batter's box. The tournament debuted in 2019, and was named LPGA tournament of the year — a first for a first-year LPGA tournament. It was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, and returned in 2021. The event has raised more than $1 million for charities in two playings.

"Our founder, Herbert H. Dow, one of his famous quotes was, 'If you can't do it better, why do it,'" said Chris Chandler, executive director of Midland's LPGA tournament. "It's kind of with that mantra and spirit from 125 years ago but also our ambition of today that we created the Dow GLBI back in 2019, and why we wanted it to be a little bit different maybe than some other events on Tour.

"That's really how the team format was born here. The LPGA loved the idea. We wanted to do something different, and it was kind of a match made in heaven here."

Last year's champions were sisters Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn.

Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational

When: Wednesday through Saturday

Where: Midland Country Club

TV: 3-6 Wednesday (Golf Channel), 1-4 Thursday-Friday (GC), 4-6 Saturday (CBS)

2021 champions: Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn

Tickets: Starting at $10; details at dowglbi.com

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984