GALLOWAY, NEW JERSEY | History is all around at the Seaview Hotel. The Bay Course, where the ShopRite LPGA Classic will be played this week, dates back to 1914 and the Hugh Wilson-Donald Ross design is where Sam Snead won the first of his seven majors, the 1942 PGA Championship, chipping in from 20 yards on the 35th hole to defeat Jim Turnesa, 2 and 1, back when the event was contested at match play.
Now it is home to a revitalized tournament that 10 years ago returned to the LPGA Tour bigger, better and more innovative than ever. Founded as the Atlantic City LPGA Classic in 1986, its winner’s list includes a roll call of Hall of Fame members.
Juli Inkster won that first year and was followed by Betsy King, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sörenstam, Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb. The new class of champions includes Annie Park, who last year picked up her first LPGA victory, as well as major winners I.K. Kim, Anna Nordqvist, Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome.
ShopRite’s run with the Atlantic City tournament was interrupted by a three-year hiccup from 2007-09 when then commissioner Carolyn Bivens gave the event’s longtime date to another sponsor. That tournament in Charleston, S.C., folded after two years.
But the combined efforts of commissioner Mike Whan to get ShopRite, a loyal sponsor, and Atlantic City, a golf-passionate market, back on the schedule and the vision of Eiger Marketing Group, piloted a revival. And now both the Seaview course and ShopRite are signed through 2023.
ShopRite, a regional supermarket chain, got involved with the Seaview event in 1992 and remained through 2006 when the tournament date conflict erupted. The tournament was offered other dates, but none workable in the local market. When the ShopRite returned it was on the path to what it is today – a bold event that expands the definition of a golf tournament.
“What we knew for sure was that Atlantic City missed the LPGA,” said Tim Erensen, managing partner of Eiger Marketing Group, which runs the tournament. “What we were surprised to find out was how much the LPGA missed Atlantic City. ShopRite never wanted to leave. To bring them back was easy. You couldn’t ask for a better partner.”
The result has been an unquestioned success. This year, ShopRite will present a check for $1.4 million that goes to regional charities, bringing the total generated over the years of ShopRite’s involvement to $34 million. The tournament’s creativity was honored by the LPGA with the Gold Driver Award for best player integration with fans, corporate partners and community organizations.
“What happens here Friday through Sunday is made possible by what happens here Monday through Thursday,” Erensen said about the community activities surrounding the 54-hole event.
During the course of the week, there are 22 different community activities, all involving LPGA players. This year, four elementary schools, two hospitals and a driving range are off-site venues and three school groups were brought to the Seaview course.
The two-day pro-am employing multiple courses involves 1,500 rounds this year and is so large that Eiger Marketing brings in 100 extra pros to fill the fields, including past LPGA stars like Anne Marie Palli, who won the ShopRite in 1992, and Val Skinner, whose annual breast cancer charity outing is in Northern New Jersey the Monday after ShopRite.
“It was always our intention to extend the impact of the tournament to the community and the LPGA players are so willing to be involved in visits to hospitals and schools,” Erensen said. “And it’s gratifying to us to see the impact these visits have on the players. They love giving back.”
“We have made it a priority to reach out to the children and families in the community. And we want the community to feel our impact.” – Tim Erensen, Eiger Marketing Group
One of the projects the ShopRite Classic supports is the South Jersey Fields of Dreams, where athletic fields have been refitted to be accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities. Working with Special Olympics, the facility has changed the lives of countless people.
“Over the years, I’ve seen people who I first met when they were teenagers who have now moved out of their parents’ home and are living alone,” Erensen said. “It’s amazing – and heartwarming – to see. It’s what this tournament is all about.”
To further emphasize the ShopRite tournament’s community ties, corporate support for the event has grown from 300 national, regional and local business partners to more than 450. The Patriots’ Pavilion, where members of the military community and first responders have access, is sponsored by Kleenex and Servpro.
“We have made it a priority to reach out to the children and families in the community,” Erensen said. “From the Family Fun Zone to the Patriots’ Pavilion, we want to not only get people to the tournament but keep them there once they arrive. And we want the community to feel our impact.”
They’ve been making history at Seaview since the turn of the last century, from Wilson and Ross through Snead and Inkster. Now the ShopRite Classic is making new memories, proving you can go home again. A decade after its three-year hiatus, the LPGA’s Atlantic City stop is bigger and better than ever. And the community is once again feeling its impact.
Jeongeun Lee6, fresh off her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, will tee it up at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Photo: Stacy Revere, Getty Images
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