Blackthorn General Manager Tim Firestone, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Pokagon Band Chairman Matt Wesaw look on as Matt Harkness, general manager of Four Winds Casinos announces that the LPGA-Symetra Tour will come to the golf course in August. (Daily Star Photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Archived Story

Four Winds sponsoring tourney

Published 5:12pm Wednesday, February 1, 2012

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The road to the Ladies Professional Golf League will run through South Bend and Blackthorn Golf Club this summer.

The LPGA-Symetra Tour, formerly the Futures Tour, will make a stop at Blackthorn this August it was announced Wednesday morning.

The Four Winds Invitational will be held Aug. 10-12.

Matt Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawtomi Indians; along with Matt Harkness, general manger of Four Winds Casino; Zayra Calderon, CEO of the Symetra Tour; South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Tim Firestone, general manager of Blackthorn; were on hand to talk about the benefits of bringing such an event to northern Indiana.

The Four Winds Invitational will have a purse of $150,000, making it the largest payday on the Symetra Tour this year and surely will draw the best players from around the world.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” Wesaw said. “We are very pleased to be involved in this event. This is kind of reawakens our partnership that we feel with the state of Indiana. This is home to about one-quarter of our tribal citizens.

“We are very excited to be involved in this event and we think the very positive economic development that will result in this is not only a good thing for the folks here, but for us as a tribe.”

Calderon gave an overview of the Symetra Tour and what it means to professional golf. It’s the only developmental tour for the LPGA and is has been very productive over its 32 years of existence.

Calderon said that 85 percent of the participants move on to the LPGA. The top 10 money winners on the Symetra Tour quality for membership on the LPGA Tour. There are more than 500 alumni of the Symetra Tour and they have accounted for a total of 362 titles, including 39 major championships.

“We think of the tour as more than golf,” Calderon said. “But we also want to make sure we recognize the talent of the players. When you see any or most of the players. If you have any opportunity to see any of the players on the road to the LPGA, you will have seen them here in your backyard.

“In addition to their phenomenal performance, they are going to bring to town their passion, there ambition. I think of the tour as an Olympic week. We have players from over 30 countries carrying on their back the flag of their country.”

Caleron added that while the Symetra Tour provided the opportunity for these young women to make a living as a professional golfer, they are unable to do it alone.

“We need partners like Four Winds Casinos and Blackthorn in order to make it happen,” she said. “And we need the community. We have a belief that we not only have a positive economic impact, but we are going to leave the community better than we found it.”

The field will consist of more than 100 golfers, many of whom will stay in homes in the community. Calderon said that tournaments normally generate between $500,000 and $800,000 for the communities they set up tour stops in.

South Bend’s new mayor, Pete Buttigieg, said that he expected the event to be a huge success, both in drawing fans to his city, but from an economic standpoint as well.

“This is very good news for the City of South Bend. The road to the LPGA Tour goes through South Bend this year thanks to the Four Winds Invitational as a part of that path.

“We are very appreciative to the Pokagon Band, to the Four Winds Casino and to the Symetra Tour for partnering with Blackthorn and with the City of South Bend to make this possible. This August will be the first of what we hope will be very many successful tours that highlight what South Bend has to offer. You can’t even measure often the indirect impact that a successful sporting event can have on the ecomony and the reputation to a city like ours.”

The Four Winds Invitational will actually be a week-long event beginning Monday, Aug. 6 with practice rounds. There will also be a Pro-Am later in the week where area golfers will get a chance to play along side some of the future stars of the LPGA Tour.

The actually tournament will run from Friday through Sunday, Aug. 10-12.

More information, including how to host a player, tickets and how to play in the Pro-Am will be available on a website, which will be set up in the near future.

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