Ann Arbor’s LPGA Tournament is not on the 2019 schedule at this point. Organizers insist, however, that the game is not yet over.
For each of the last three years, the Volvik Championship has been held at Ann Arbor’s Travis Point Country Club on Memorial Day weekend. However, when Volvik opted not to renew its three year deal, the tournament was left without a sponsor. The search for one still is underway, and when found, there are spots available on the LPGA calendar.
Tournament spokesman Bruce Madej said in a statement that:
“The LPGA is planning to announce its 2019 schedule on Thursday, December 6, during a Golf Central segment on Golf Channel at 6:00PM Eastern Time. When the organization publicizes the tour schedule, the Ann Arbor event will not be on the announced calendar. Even though it will not be listed, Tournament Director Keith Karbo is currently in talks with interested parties for a 2019 event. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan is aware of these discussions and has dates available for our tournament. Having held this tournament successfully for three years, our organization is prepared to operate the event once a title sponsor is confirmed.”
LPGA players said they very much enjoyed the small town, family atmosphere of Ann Arbor’s LPGA Tournament. They stayed with the same local families year after year, and visited sick children at the University Hospital.
At the conclusion of the 2018 Volvik Championship, both LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and Tournament Director Keith Karbo said that they are confident the LPGA will remain in Southeast Michigan.
I feel comfortable about our plans here long term. I don’t have anything to announce this week and we’re not telling you about what our X number of years is, but I think the LPGA and Ann Arbor probably have a long future together, we just have some work to do in the months that follow this event, Whan said.
Unfortunately, it is a crowded field for LPGA events in Michigan and a sponsor with deep pockets may be hard to find. The LPGA Meijer Classic in Grand Rapids is going strong, and a new LGPA event will be held in Midland: The Great Lakes Bay Invitational. In addition, the LPGA has a long-running tournament in Toledo, which is less than an hour from Ann Arbor.
Further diluting the sponsorship opportunities is the new PGA TOUR event in Detroit: The Rocket Mortgage Classic. Nearby Grand Blanc will host the second Champions Tour Ally Challenge in 2019.
Michigan also hosts two Symetra Tour events (the LPGA Minor Leagues): The Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship in Battle Creek, and the Island Resort Championship in the Upper Peninsula, in Harris.
It strikes me that it would be important for the long-term health of Ann Arbor’s LPGA Tournament to find a sponsor with Michigan roots. All of the aforementioned tournament have local sponsors: Meijer is a Grand Rapids based company. The Great Lakes Bay Invitational is sponsored by Midland’s Dow Corporation. Rocket Mortgage is based in Detroit. Ally is a financial company based in Southeast Michigan. The Symetra Tour events are sponsored by Native American casino operations.
Ann Arbor is dominated by the University of Michigan and the U of M Hospitals. Those are unlikely sponsors. There are, however, a number of other large companies with a presence in the Ann Arbor area, such as Google, Toyota, Thompson Reuters, Truven Health Analytics, Dominos and Proquest.
Google is interesting. Given the recent news surrounding accusations of sexism, sponsoring a women’s sporting event might be good optics. They certainly would not miss the four or five million it would cost to be the title sponsor. The Google LPGA Championship. Not bad.
Dominos might be able to get some traction from sponsoring an LPGA event. They could emphasize families — the LPGA is certainly family friendly — and women owners of Dominos franchises. Top franchise owners could be invited in to take in the tournament from the 18th green skybox. They could bring in some critters from the nearby petting zoo they keep at their Ann Arbor complex. I like that idea a lot: The Dominos LPGA Championship.
I am certain, however, that tournament director Karbo is exploring all options. I remain hopeful. The tournament was a lot of fun, and was gaining traction in the community. It would be sad to see it end at this point.