Director: GR has ’embraced’ LPGA Meijer Classic

LPGA Meijer Classic Tournament Director Lesley Baker visits Sports Overtime. (July 27, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One week from Monday, the LPGA will return to Michigan for the first time in 14 years.

The LPGA Meijer Classic Tournament is set for Aug. 4 through Aug. 10 at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, north of Grand Rapids.

It will be the first PGA tournament of any kind in West Michigan since the Farmer’s Classic in 2004.

LPGA Meijer Classic Tournament Director Lesley Baker told Sports Overtime said preparing for the event “takes an army.”

“We’ve got a lot of folks working hard to make sure next week runs smoothly,” she said. “We have almost 700 volunteers. We need a lot of support and we’re definitely getting it here.”

Baker said West Michigan has “embraced the event.”

“The community here is far different than any community I’ve ever worked and had experience in,” she said.

“I think Meijer wanted to bring this event here, first, to promote their Simply Give pro`gram, which goes to feeding the hungry in the markets that they’re in,” she said. “Second, to let everyone know how great this community is and what Grand Rapids means to them, and get involved here.”

She said it’s that kind of support that will bring back the LPGA in future years.

That would be an economic boon to the area. The average economic impact of an LPGA event in a community is $5 million to $7 million, Baker said.

She said the LPGA’s fan-friendly attitude is a “perfect match” with the late Frederik Meijer’s goal of Meijer being a family and community company.

“They’ve got a lot of things in common,” she said. “The LPGA tour players are very welcoming and will say hi and give high-fives to our volunteers and spectators throughout the week. It’s definitely a good match.”

And it will be a busy week.

The Monday, Aug. 4 practice rounds will be closed to the public.

Tuesday will be the Meijer LPGA Ladies Day, which will include a walking clinic with LPGA professionals. The Pro-Am is set for Wednesday.

The first round of play starts Thursday and will air live on the Golf Channel. The second round of play starts Friday, and there will be a celebrity chef cook–off at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

The third round of play is set for Saturday.

Also Saturday, there will be a 5K run in Rockford benefiting local food pantries through Meijer’s Simply Give program, as well as a community concert featuring country music’s Gary Allan and duo Big & Rich at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park.

Tickets for the tournament are available for purchase online. Everyone 17 and under is admitted free if accompanied by an adult with a ticket.

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