Meijer LPGA Classic boosts GR area economy

The Cavelli sisters, LPGA fans, get an autograph. (Aug. 7, 2014)

BELMONT, Mich. (WOOD) — The dollars brought to the Grand Rapids area by the Meijer LPGA Classic are adding up.

Organizers say the tournament will inject between $4 million and $7 million into the local economy.

As many as 20,000 fans are expected to flood Blythefield Country Club in Belmont before tournament play concludes Sunday. Organizers said the crowds Thursday were bigger than they had hoped.

“Usually on the first day, on Thursday mornings, we don’t get hit that hard. This morning, everybody was slam,” Executive Director Andy Bush said.

Organizers said they thought there were three reasons for the big crowds: Pleasant weather, the long delay since the last LPGA event in Michigan and Michelle Wie — though she withdrew from the tournament Thursday afternoon with pain in her right hand.

Chloe Cavalli and her sister, who live in Rockford, say it’s “weird to think” that their favorite LPGA players are so close.

“The best girls in the world playing golf right here and we got their autograph,” Chloe said.

“You’re new to golfing and then you come to something like this and it’s like, ‘wow,'” Chloe’s mother Sarah said.

Jo Ann Bowers came from Bloomington, Ill. to watch the tournament.

“We came to follow one of our friends, Laura Diaz,” she said.

Diaz is an LPGA tour regular and is among the 144 women competing in the Meijer Classic.

Not far away from the country club, Jake O’Rourke, a manager at The Score on Northland Drive NE, said the sports bar formulated a marketing strategy months ago. They anticipated a lot of out-of-town guests, but also hope to draw in residents from as close as the Grand Rapids south side and as far away as the lakeshore and Lansing.

“They may not have been able to come out here yet and check us out. We obviously have a unique product, something different you don’t see anywhere else,” O’Rourke said, referring the bar’s deck that overlooks a lake. “We’re really trying to impress not only the out-of-towners, but the locals who really haven’t had a chance to check us out yet.”

O’Rourke said the restaurant has already seen a huge increase in food sales and expects that to continue to pick up through the rest of the tournament.

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