andrew kruse-ross | thornberry creek lpga classic | june 2017
The last time the Ladies Professional Golf Association played the state of Wisconsin was in 2012 during the U.S. Woman's Open in Kohler, but that's about to change as the LPGA will converge on the grounds of Thornberry Creek at Oneida July 3-9 for the inaugural Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
The Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic caps off what will be a historic year for the state of Wisconsin where golf is concerned as the USGA U.S. Open and the PGA AmFam Championship are also scheduled to take place a few short weeks before the LPGA comes to Oneida.
“This is the first time that you have all three major tours represented in one state," says PGA Professional and Chief Operating Officer of Thornberry Creek, Joshua Doxtator.
The Oneida Nation has agreed to a three-year partnership with the LPGA and will host the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic through 2019. This year's event marks the first time the LPGA or PGA Tour has hosted a sponsored event in Brown County. For Doxtator, the timing is perfect.
“Golf in the state of Wisconsin is becoming more and more prominent … the Green Bay/Appleton market ranks as the number one market in the country per capita for people who play the game or love the game of golf … or consider themselves fans of the LPGA."
A full field of 144 LPGA players, “the best of the best," will compete for the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic purse of $2 million. That purse is tied for the largest domestic non-major purse on the LPGA Tour.
The event is the most recent step in a series devised to secure Titletown and Oneida as a destination location within the state.
“When everyone thinks of Green Bay they think of the Packers, which is great; we love them and they're wonderful, but our hope through this process is to illustrate to the world what we have to offer outside of that," says Doxtator.
The Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic will be presented via 11 hours of live coverage by both NBC Sports and the Golf Channel, the most coverage ever devoted to a LPGA Tour event outside of one if its major events.
“That coverage is available in over 400-million households and 76 percent of the countries in the world," says Doxtator.
Television coverage aside, Doxtator expects a crowd upward of 70,000 to turn out to watch the event in person.
“We're here to break records," says Doxtator. “One of those records we have our sights on is the inaugural attendance level for an LPGA event, which I believe is around 80,000."
Doxtator says that paramount to the Thornberry Creek Classic is creating a unique event that will appeal to crowds regardless of their affinity for the sport of golf and that stays true to the spirit of Titletown.
“We're calling this the NEW LPGA Tour Experience — the 'NEW' being northeastern Wisconsin — with this event we're going to embrace who we are."
This NEW LPGA Tour Experience seeks to open this event and the sport of golf to people of all ages, regardless of previous exposure to a sport sometimes considered “stuffy."
“As PGA Professionals, one of the highest priorities for us is to make sure we create new players, and the only way you're going to do that is if you do things differently," says Doxtator. “If you can expose someone to an event where you break some of those stereotypes they'll say 'Oh, this is cool. I can be a part of this.' And that's what we want."
Part of this effort includes a Junior Clinic as well as offering children free admission to the event with a paid adult.
Fans of tailgating season will enjoy several amenities reminiscent more of football season than golf season. During the event the practice tee area will serve as a tailgate zone offering beer, Klement's brats, deep fried foods and more. Midwest Communications and WIXX will be on hand playing song requests from the LPGA golfers during their practice swings offering a unique interaction between players and fans.
Thornberry Creek's 17th hole, a par-3, features a party deck complete with official headgear created exclusively for this event by original cheesehead creator Foamation, Inc. In addition to a food and drink voucher, those enjoying the view from The Deck will receive $2 beer and brats for a limited time after any LPGA player makes birdie.
While the tailgate area and Deck present the lighter side of Titletown, the Thornberry Creek Classic also seeks to showcase the history of the Oneida people. Upon entering the admission gate, attendees will walk through the Oneida Village exhibit which tells the story of the Oneida people, documenting the tribe's migration from New York to Wisconsin and its rise from poverty to prosperity.
The raw materials to host such an event were in place back in October of 2015, when the three-year agreement to host the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic was announced in Naples, Fla. Since that time, however, the venue, which boasts a nearly 70,000 square foot clubhouse, has made modifications to meet the requirements necessary to host a LPGA event.
Those modifications included the completion of locker rooms and the expansion of the practice facility, which was increased by two-thirds of its original size, adding 40,000 square feet of tee space to the course — this modification included pushing the tee space back 100 yards, adding a short game area, a 10,000 square foot putting green and two practice bunkers to the venue that already offers golfers a nine and 18-hole course.
According to Doxtator, those modifications will be put to good use far into the future, benefitting both professional and amateur golfers alike.
“Everything that we've done is going to far impact this facility after this event," says Doxtator. “These things will generate revenue for years."
As for the event, Thornberry Creek has agreed to sanction the event for the next three years, but hopes are high that this event becomes a Titletown mainstay for years to come.
“We signed an initial three-year sanctioning, but the intention is to keep it here for thirty years. We want this to be here for a very long time, but that only happens through community support."
While Thornberry Creek will be the place to be in early July, there's never a bad time to get acquainted with the facility. And much like the venue's approach to the LPGA Classic, Thornberry Creek seeks to appeal to a broad audience.
“We try to offer something for everyone," says PGA Professional and Thornberry Creek General Manager, Justin Fox.
“We have to provide a lot of value; you can play golf anywhere, but we have to ensure that we are the best of the best."
Fox says the venue is ideally suited to appeal to golfers of varying skill, offering a unique golf experience to both newcomers and seasoned golfers. This is in keeping with the PGA's commitment to grow the game and attract new players to the sport.
“We have a great golf course that can accommodate a lot of different people; our nine-hole is affordable and anybody can come play," says Fox. “If you're a really good golfer looking to play a really good golf course, our 18-hole has that as well."
Sitting atop one of Brown County's highest locales, the spacious clubhouse offers one of the area's finest views — even Lambeau Field, more than six miles away, is clearly visible from the clubhouse patio, which sits above the 18th green. The venues idyllic location and amenities have made it a premier location for private parties and weddings. Thornberry Creek can easily accommodate plated dinner parties of 40 to 300 people.
Thornberry Creek also offers a 100-stool bar room with more than 20 beers on tap, a summer food menu that includes wood fire, brick-oven pizzas and an on-site golf shop.
“We're a great destination facility for those living inside or outside Green Bay," says Fox. “We're a great guys-getaway, we're a great couples getaway. We can accommodate that destination feeling for people at a fraction of the price they're used to."
Reduced pricing on admission and events during the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic is available by purchasing tickets in advance. For tickets and event info visit ThornberryCreekClassic.com.
To book your tee time or learn more about Thornberry Creek visit GolfThornberry.com.
Thornberry Creek is the official golf course of the Green Bay Packers.