You have never heard “Ladies, Start Your Engines” at the beginning of the famous Indy 500 car race. The tradition is “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines” and that tradition will continue I am sure!

But the most innovative LPGA tournament – in my opinion – on the 2017 Schedule is at the famous Indianapolis race track – September 7-9.  This tournament is one of four inaugural tournaments on the LPGA’s 2017 season. And, it’s my favorite!

2017 Indy Women in Tech Championship
2017 Indy Women in Tech Championship

But, not to mislead readers:  The LPGA golfers are not teeing their balls up on the Indy racetrack. They are playing on the Pete Dye designed Brickyard Crossing course that features four holes inside the racetrack and the remaining 14 holes outside the racetrack.

However, the location of the course on the Indy Racetrack is only one innovative feature of this tournament.  More innovative in my view is that the sponsors of the tournament are a women’s technology organization and a major insurance company.  They are not the traditional sponsor for an LPGA Tournament and their “product” is not traditional either – it is absolutely “innovative.”

Sadena Parks Indy Women in Tech Championship
Sadena Parks playing in the 2017 Indy Women in Tech Championship

I had always wondered what it took to initiate a new tournament for the Tour.  Although I have been writing about women’s golf for years, I never had an opportunity to learn how the pieces came together.

What comes first?  Is it a new golf course or resort that wants more promotion?  Is it a sponsor looking to promote a new product?  The “Indy Women in Tech” title really intrigued me because I wasn’t sure what they were promoting.

I got lucky.  With one email to a person close to the technology scene in Indianapolis together with the cooperation of the staff at LPGA Media, I landed on a conference call with all the right people who knew all the answers to all my questions.

For starters, one innovative feature of this tournament is that the most visible and promoted sponsor of the tournament is a women’s technology initiative – Indy Women in Tech.

President of Guggenheim Life & Annuity, Dan Towriss during the Indy Women in Tech Championship Pro-Am
President of Guggenheim Life & Annuity, Dan Towriss during the Indy Women in Tech Championship Pro-Am

Second, Guggenheim Life, the co-sponsor of the tournament and the partner with the financial resources to sponsor the tournament and the $2 million prize money, consistently has chosen to put Indy Women in Tech first in all the signage and much of the publicity for the tournament.

Guggenheim Life – a financial company with its home base in Indianapolis – selected to step back because its support for this golf tournament is not about selling financial services or a golf course or race track. It is about selling “Indianapolis.”

Here’s the background:  Gregg Ballard, the former Mayor of Indianapolis, promoted growing science in the city’s schools – in particular, robotics program that grew to a newsworthy statewide competitive educational event.

LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan, player Brittany Lang and Mayor Greg Ballard
LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan, player Brittany Lang and Mayor Greg Ballard

Dan Towriss, the President and CEO of Guggenheim Life, an Indianapolis corporation, assisted in supporting the robotics program as well as other science initiatives in the schools.

Both the former Mayor and the President of Guggenheim Life believed that Indianapolis could attract more technology companies.  But the city needed employees knowledgeable in technology.  And, they recognized that there were not enough “techies” in Indianapolis.

Enter Indy Women in Technology (IWIT)

2017_LPGA_Flag Women in TechWith the help of Guggenheim Life, the Indy Women in Tech Foundation was established to sponsor training and educational programs for women who were interested in technology. The website and the innovative programs are very impressive.

Indy Women in Tech also reaches down into the schools enriching the science curriculum with needed assistance in more robotic training and STEM programs. (STEM curriculums concentrate on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.)

Enter the LPGA Tour

Both Guggenheim’s CEO and the former mayor recognized, however, that the IWIT Foundation and its programs were not going to give Indianapolis the global reach that it needed to promote the city as a home for tech companies.

Indy Women in Technology Championship 2017
Giulia Molinaro at the 2017 Indy Women in Tech Championship | Photo by Ben Harpring

Several times during our conversations, the mayor said that  Dan Towriss, Guggenheim’s CEO, wanted to really “move the needle.”  He wasn’t interested in just another program if it didn’t really make a difference in the future growth of Indianapolis.

A mutual friend – well connected in the national promotion of sports – suggested to Dan Towriss that the LPGA Tour would be a good platform for building awareness of Indianapolis as a tech hub.  It would use the global reach of the LPGA to shine a spotlight on Indianapolis and also help secure more sponsors for the IWIT Foundation program itself.  Sounded like a good idea to the CEO.

Dan Towriss placed a call to LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan.  And the rest is history.  The Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim is currently a three-year commitment with the hope that it will be extended to a five-year commitment.

The more I read about this new tournament and the more people I spoke with, the list of innovations grew.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American women in space and Founder and President of the Jemison Group and BioSentient Corp
Keynote speaker at the IWIT Summit, Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American women in space and Founder and President of the Jemison Group and BioSentient Corp

On Tuesday, September 5th, the Indy Women in Tech held an IWIT Summit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The event featured leaders and decision makers at both the national and local level.  The stated goal was to inspire a growing diversification of the tech workforce in Indy, establishing a foundation on which to attract and develop the next generation of female leaders in the tech industry.

The IWIT also has an “IWIT Lounge” at the tournament where women interested in starting or furthering a career in technology can talk with women from the Foundation about the opportunities available.

The team that put this new and innovative tournament together is one very high-powered team that I will bet on to “move the needle.”

It will bring more science and technology into classrooms, encourage more women to transition into technology careers through the tech training and initiatives offered by the Indy Women in Tech Foundation, acquire more sponsorship and funding for IWIT programs and ultimately put Indianapolis on the map as a technology center.

All that and a great LPGA Tour event.  Ladies, start your engines!


Lexi Thompson winner of the 2017 Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim
Lexi Thompson

Results Update

Lexi Thompson won the inaugural Indy Women in Tech Championship with rounds of 63-66-68 (-19), a 4-shot victory over Lydia Ko. Read all the news and information about this innovative new tournament on LPGA.com.

Feature photo: Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko playing in the 2017 Indy Women in Tech Championship. All on course photos by Ben Harpring.

 


Nancy Lopez with Nancy Berkley Womens Golf
Member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Nancy Lopez with Nancy Berkley

Nancy Berkley is an expert on women’s golf and junior-girls golf in the U.S.  Nancy is a member of the World Golf Foundation Women’s Committee and a member of the National Golf Foundation. Nancy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University, Rutgers Law School and has a degree from the Professional Management Program of Harvard Business School.

Nancy is an active golfer at Frenchman’s Creek Beach and Country Club, her home course in Palm Beach Gardens Florida, where she is a member of the Greens Committee. Describing herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential, Nancy shares news and her opinions about women’s golf on berkleygolfconsulting.com and nancyberkley.com.

You can also follow Nancy on Facebook and Twitter.

Notes from Nancy feature in the Women’s Golf Newsletter which is sent out by email to thousands of women’s golf fans at the beginning of every month. Subscription is free.