LPGA veterans take time out to volunteer at East Side Soup Kitchen

LPGA veterans take time out to volunteer at East Side Soup Kitchen

SAGINAW, MI – A hair net and apron isn’t exactly the normal uniform for Catherine Kirk.

But the LPGA golfer was rolling up cooking dough instead of rolling in putts Monday as one of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational volunteers at Saginaw’s East Side Soup Kitchen and Hidden Harvest.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever worn something like this before,” said Kirk, who teamed with Amy Olson to finish 35th in the 2021 Dow LGBA event.

“I’m from Australia, so our favorite cookies are anzac cookies … it’s kind of the traditional cookie for us,” Kirk said. “But my favorite cookie to make is chocolate chip. And I just learned a big secret. I love Kerrygold butter, but someone told me to try baking with Land of Lakes … and they turned out great.

“The coolest part of the tournament is that every team gets paired up with a local charity … this year there’s 36. Who knows, I might get the East Side Soup Kitchen. I’m ditching the golf clubs for an apron and the cap, and I’m going to make some cookies. Thankfully, it’s not too challenging. It will be good to taste them in the end.”

Kirk didn’t get to make or bake the chocolate chip cookies Monday after the Dow GLBI media day, but she spent time rolling the dough into cookies, along with Solheim Cup captain Suzann Pettersen and Golf Channel commentator Tom Abbott.

“Food recovery and sustainability is a major pillar of this LPGA event,” Abbott said. “Last year, they gave more than 4,300 pounds of unused food to local hunger relief groups.”

The 2022 Dow GLBI event is Wednesday, July 13 through Saturday, July 16. Tickets are $10 and available at dowglbi.com. To celebrate Dow’s 125th birthday, admission is free on Wednesday’s opening day, although fans must still purchase the “free” tickets online.

“I’ve been an advocate for sustainability since 2019,” said Pettersen, a native of Norway. “Golf has given me a platform to speak out on issues that are important to me, and reaching sustainability is one of the pillars of this event and one that’s very mportant to me.”

Pettersen won 15 LPGA titles, including two majors, before retiring in 2019 after sinking the Solheim Cup-winning putt. She is the European captain for the 2023 Solheim Cup and will attend the 2022 Dow GLBI, but not as a player.

“I do miss the girls, miss the fun, miss the energy,” Pettersen said. “I love to see what the younger generation is doing. I played in the Solheim Cup and was an assistant captain, but I was surprised a little by the work you have to do as captain.

“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. You don’t really see it as a player. You just show up and play. There’s a lot of work for the captain. I’m enjoying it though.”

Kirk enjoys the LPGA stop in Midland, the lone team event on the LPGA tour. But she would enjoy it more if she could finish a little higher on the leaderboard. Kirk and Olson shot a 3-under par after two rounds in the 2019 event, missing the cut. They made the cut and finished 35th in 2021, and look to improve in 2022.

“We’re a good team because she’s a really good ball-striker,” Kirk said. “And I’m kind of all over the place, so together we’re pretty good. But it’s just a great event for the players. In general, the players on the tour are pretty reserved. You don’t see them with a lot of emotion.

“That’s why I’ve said you see more smiles and high-fives at this event than at any other LPGA event. The players love it. There’s so much energy in this event from the players.”

That translates to popularity with fans. The event drew more than 25,000 fans in 2021. This year, the Golf Channel will carry the first three days of the tournament live, with CBS airing the final round live on Saturday.

“The golf calendar is very crowded, but the timing of this event works well with the (British) Open,” Abbott said. Abbott will work the British Open July 14-17 instead of the LPGA event in Midland.

“Having it live is a big deal. It makes a difference to the players. Because of the time difference with the Open, they work well together. I would love to handle the event at some point. There are so many good storylines in an event like this. You take good golf with good storylines, and that’s a good recipe.”

The defending champions from the first two events have committed to play again in 2022, with the same teams. Jasmine Suwannapura and Cydney Clanton will return after winning the first Dow GLBI title in 2019 and finishing second in 2021 to champions Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn.

While tickets are $10 for the final three days, fans ages 17-under get in free. Officials estimate the 2021 event generated $13 million dollars for the community, with the invitational donating more than $1 million to 36 non-profit organizations, including the East Side Soup Kitchen and Hidden Harvest.

“This is really cool,” Kirk said. “When you can reach out, when you can help … it’s pretty cool.”

Even if they didn’t follow her recipe.

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