On its 10th Anniversary the Meijer LPGA Classic Tee off

Tournament and 10th Anniversary Logo

(Belmont, MI) Thanks to its well-planned and executed press conference in May at Blythefield Country Club, the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give–teeing off Thursday—has been on my mind for over a month. The major focal point of the gathering of invited media, tournament organizers, charity and club representatives, and LPGA officials was showcasing the tournament’s 10th anniversary year.

The best part of the press conference for me was having personal interviews with several key attendees. In press conference parlance, this is the time allotted for a media rep’s  “one-on-one opportunities.”

Long an admirer of the venue, I was eager to ask LPGA player and invited speaker Brittany Lang for her assessment of Blythefield. A 17-year veteran of the LPGA and the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open champion, Lang has played in eight tournaments at the Belmont course.

Brittany Lang

Brittany Lang

Brittany, what’s your take on the first hole of the tournament, which plays as the 8th hole for members? Many area golfers rank it as one of the best short par-fours in west Michigan

Yes, that hole is challenging. I always hit the driver off the tee and want to have a wedge for my second shot. Regardless of where the pin is, I simply aim for the middle of that small, elevated green and hope to stay on top. It’s easy to hit short and have your ball roll all the way down the slope. It’s the type of hole that I see as a yellow traffic light; proceed with caution.

And what about the par-three 13th hole next to the Rogue River, as well as the 15th hole?

I love the 13th, especially when we play the back tee, where we take the bridge over the river. It’s such a scenic setting with the trees and rushing water. From that spot, I’ll hit a five-wood. From the up tees, it’s pretty straightforward, with an open approach to the green. I also like the 15th hole and it usually plays around 160 yards. At that yardage, it’s gettable—you can make a birdie.

Why is this tournament popular with players?

First, the girls really like the course. It’s a beautiful layout, and it’s always in great shape. And, of course, because of Meijer and other sponsors, players compete for a good purse. But there are other things that attract players, such as the strong community support, the large and energetic galleries, and the charitable cause. For me and many players, I always enjoy coming back and reuniting with my host family, who welcome me into their home for the week.


Casey Ceman

Casey Ceman

Next, I spoke with Casey Ceman, the LPGA’s Vice President of Tournament Business Affairs, who also made some formal remarks earlier in the program.

Casey, with the world of men’s golf—at the elite Tour level—divided and disrupted, would you comment on how the LPGA, in contrast, is in a good place with its fan base?

The LPGA is a refreshing place to witness world-class talent. Every week, our best players show up at tournaments like the Meijer LPGA Classic and are committed to being accessible to fans. But this is not something new or a reaction to what’s going on in golf; it’s been a long-time commitment by players and the LPGA.

What are the keys to the LPGA’s success for its players engaging with fans?

It’s really an easy sell for players. They understand their role as an incredible group of athletes interacting with fans by signing autographs, posing for selfies and group shots, and being accessible. Players have bought into fan engagement not only because they enjoy doing it but also know it helps to grow their tour. Players who are part of this tournament have commented on how much they feel the energy and support of this community.


Doug Meijer

Doug Meijer

I also chatted with Doug Meijer, the vice-chairman of Meijer, son of Fred and Lena Meijer, and grandson of Hendrik Meijer, the founder, with Fred, of the company in 1934. He’s an unsung hero for why Meijer Inc. became the title sponsor of this tournament. Incidentally, I’ve known Doug for a long time and have regularly interacted with him at various golf tournaments and member-guest events. In his day, he was an accomplished amateur player and carried a minuscule index.  Not eager for attention or the press spotlight, Doug sheepishly agreed to take my questions. I softened him up by recalling how long a driver he was in his competitive days.

Doug, you’ve been a vocal advocate for the LPGA Tour and its players long before this tournament. How did that all begin?

It really developed when I used to play in the LPGA pro-ams at various tournaments around the country. Even though I also played in pro-ams for the PGA Tour and the Senior (Champions) Tour, my favorites were the LPGAs. The women pros were generally more friendly, conversant, and personal than what I experienced at other pro-ams. The players always seemed to get it, knowing how important it was and is to interact with their amateur partners and sponsors.

Besides their accessibility what else has stood out for you when being paired with them?

How good they are and how much they get out of their swings. They have incredible and effortless swing speeds, and it’s ridiculous how good they are. One year, I was paired here with Lexi Thompson, and on the first hole of the tournament course, she drove up and well over the hill, leaving her a short pitch shot to the green. I asked her, “Lexi, do you always hit driver on this hole?”

She turned to me and said, “I never hit a driver here, always a three-wood.” Players like Lexi have amazing power, but they also know how to manage their game on a golf course like Blythefield.


Cathy Cooper

Cathy Cooper

Finally, I chatted with Cathy Cooper, Executive Director of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Giving, and Meijer’s lead person overseeing the tournament.

Looking back at the past 10 years, do you have an anecdote or special moment that is especially memorable?

My fondest memory took place in our first year, 2014. After the winner’s check was presented and the Simply Give donation was made, I looked around and realized all we had accomplished and how the community was there to support us. It was just an overwhelming moment, and it brought several of our team members to tears, including me.

What’s your mindset and attitude going forward for the tournament?

We have a good thing going, but we don’t take it for granted. Even after ten years, it’s not a do-over. We’re committed to working just as hard, always rethinking what we’ve done and making sure it’s the best we can do.

For complete details on the tournament, visit https://meijerlpgaclassic.com/

Images courtesy of Meijer LPGA Classic, LPGA, Meijer LPGA Classic, and  I Understand Love Heals

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