So when LPGA Tour players step to the tee for the first round of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational at Midland Country Club, there will be an enthusiastic group of more than 800 volunteers on site hoping to kick off this inaugural event in a big way.
“When we announced the tournament was coming to Midland, Michigan in May 2018, there was so much excitement in the community and people were jumping onboard to help,” said Alexandra Maga, event manager of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
“We started registering volunteers on October 1 last year and in four weeks, we had 700 people signed up,” she added. “We actually had to make a sign-up waiting list.”
That list added another 100 volunteers – with some traveling from Canada, Florida, Texas, California and from throughout Michigan, including volunteers from the LPGA’s Meijer LPGA Classic, held two hours away in Grand Rapids.
Some of this year’s volunteers have assisted with other LPGA and PGA tournaments, including the former LPGA Volvik Championship, held in Ann Arbor, Mich., while others are avid fans of the LPGA who simply want to get involved in an event hosted in their hometown or at their home golf course.
More than 40 local residents have also opened their homes to host players in private housing during tournament week, allowing players to save on travel expenses during the event and potentially make lasting friendships from welcoming families.
“We’re thrilled to make that happen for both the players and these host families,” said Maga. “It’s been amazing to have the support we’ve already had with this community stepping up. We absolutely cannot put on a tournament without our volunteer base and the individuals who want to be involved.”
Maga and her event committee actually set up their tournament chairpersons last fall before opening public signups for volunteers. The tournament’s title sponsor, Dow Chemical, has its corporate headquarters in Midland, Mich., so the company’s communications department informed its employees of volunteer opportunities with their sponsored event.
One of those former employees, Brian Mills, who worked as a chemical engineer at Dow for more than 40 years, was already an LPGA fan and an active volunteer in his Midland community. When he learned the tournament would be held in 2019, Mills was one of the first volunteers to get involved last year.
“Brian has been at every volunteer training and he’s been incredibly helpful and always willing to lend a hand,” said Maga. “We have been very fortunate that we’ve had a year to get to know our tournament chairs and have them become a part of the team.”
Mills will serve as co-chair of the volunteer services committee, which assists the 800-plus volunteers on site with any questions and needs they may have during tournament week – which likely will be a perfect fit for a former Dow employee who helped design and build chemical plants, develop new products, conduct research and development, and manage some 12,000 employees at plants across North America.
“This tournament in Midland is building something special in our community that people can look forward to,” said Mills, who has been nominated as the tournament’s top volunteer and nominee for the 2019 AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes an exemplary volunteer at each LPGA tournament.
“I’ve seen enough crises in my work career that I know we can just keep our cool and figure out solutions,” said Mills, a Detroit-area native who retired five years ago and lives in Midland with his wife.
“I know that change is natural and whatever we plan, something will change, so we have to be adaptable,” he added. “But I enjoy working with, encouraging and developing people, so we’ll all work together to make this a great event. And if I don’t know the answers to questions, I’ll get the answers.”
As golf fans, Mills and his wife have attended LPGA tournaments in Michigan, as well as in Indianapolis. When he heard that his former employer was bringing an event to the town where they have lived for 12 years, Mills immediately knew he wanted to be involved.
“When you volunteer, you meet really nice people and it’s an opportunity to give back to the community,” said Mills, who also volunteers at Habitat For Humanity and Junior Achievement in Midland.
He and his wife also volunteer at a community garden and have helped plant 3,000 flowers of 250 varieties at a public parkland area in Midland.
Mills said he is “honored” to be nominated as the inaugural event’s top volunteer, and admitted that his nomination motivates him to “want to work harder.”
“It takes a lot of people to pull off these events,” he added. “It’s just super for this community to have this tournament here and I’m so happy to be given a chance to volunteer. I know all of us will do whatever it takes for the tournament to be successful.”
Mills, like all other top nominated 2019 LPGA tournament volunteers, will have his name placed into a random drawing at the end of the year for a $10,000 drawing by AXA. The lucky winner’s tournament charity will receive the cash prize to use as needed in their community.
“There are so many worthy charities here in Midland that I’m sure whichever ones they select, the money will be well deserved,” Mills said.
And as tournament week roars into high gear with a Wednesday first-round start, Maga feels confident her volunteer team is ready to go, especially with enthusiastic volunteers such as Brian Mills leading the charge.
“We’re pumped to get our 800 volunteers out there ready to go for a fun and busy week,” Maga said. “And I hope when we look back on the start of this event, we’ll have a number of volunteers who will return for many years to continue making this a special event in their community.”
The AXA LPGA Volunteer Award program will designate a top volunteer nominee at each of the LPGA’s tournaments. At the conclusion of the 2019 season, the name of one volunteer will be drawn in a random selection. That winning volunteer’s tournament charity will be awarded $10,000 on behalf of AXA.
AXA XL, the property & casualty and specialty risk division of AXA, provides insurance and risk management products and services for mid-sized companies through to large multinationals, and reinsurance solutions to insurance companies globally. AXA XL proudly serves as the Official Property/Casualty, Reinsurance, Auto and Professional Liability Insurance Sponsor of the LPGA. Additionally AXA XL has partnered with the LPGA on a season-long AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award which recognizes tournament volunteers who have exemplified the spirit of volunteerism and gone above and beyond expectations. For more information, please visit www.axaxl.com