After a storm tore through Bloomfield overnight, everything looked orange Friday as nearly 150 young women teed off in the first round of the ING New England Golf Classic. The tournament is one of 17 events in the Duramed Futures Tour, which helps women qualify for the Ladies Professional Golfers Association.
Orange — visible everywhere in caps, shoe laces, tents and Gerbera daisies — is the signature color of ING Group, a Dutch financial services company that sells retirement products, annuities and life and disability insurance. Its Windsor office has 2,000 employees, making it the company's largest U.S. location.
This is the first year that ING, known for its sponsorship of running events, including the New York City and Hartford marathons, has backed the event.
With about 1,000 spectators expected over three days, the purpose of the sponsorship for ING is partly community citizenship and partly marketing and publicity. Though the connection may seem tenuous between a company selling retirement products and young women golfers, there's definitely a connection, ING spokesman Phil Margolis said.
The aspiring athletes represent a target market. "We make a parallel," Margolis said. "Set [financial] goals. The women's goal is the LPGA."
The tournament budget is estimated at about $200,000, newly hired tournament director Maura Majeski said. It includes a purse of $100,000 for the players, payment of $40,000 to the town of Bloomfield for the use of its course for a week, and at least a $15,000 donation to Chip in for the Cure, a breast cancer charity at Hartford Hospital and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.
CIGNA, which had sponsored the tournament for the past three years, announced last year that it was pulling out, but Majeski kept on planning anyway.
Then Zayra Calderon, the CEO of the Duramed Futures Tour, drew on the Connecticut contacts she'd made over a 20-year career at CIGNA to find a new sponsor. ING stepped up, and under Majeski's direction, the event moved to Wintonbury Hills Golf Course, rated as the best public course in Connecticut by Golf Digest.
While there are additional sponsors — including Pepsi, Anthem Blue Cross and Konica-Minolta — ING, as title sponsor, was responsible for a contribution "in the neighborhood" of $100,000, Margolis confirmed.
Majeski, an avid golfer herself, was heartened by the Friday crowd.
For Ferdinand Banda, the tournament is a way to improve his own game. Banda, a Bristol resident who took a week's vacation to play in Monday's Pro-Am match, volunteered to caddy for golfer Lucy Nunn.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun