The future of sponsorship: How Mizuho Americas helped create unique LPGA event at Liberty National this week

In a first, 24 top junior players will play their own tourney alongside the pros — a unique mix of LPGA Tour’s present and future

Tournament Director Caila Roberts can talk about how great it is that the LPGA Tour is playing the Mizuho Americas Open at iconic Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City this week.

How the big $2.75 million purse — it’s like a major — ensures that the best of the best will be playing.

And how its placement — soon after the Cognizant Founders Cup in Clifton and right before the ShopRite Classic presented by Acer in Galloway and the women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol in Springfield — puts it in the middle of the big summer of women’s golf in New Jersey.

About Mizuho Americas

Mizuho Americas is a leading provider of a broad range of financial services, including investment and corporate banking, lending, custody, treasury services, research and capital markets solutions.

But, what she really wants to talk about is how this event is helping to further cement the place of women’s sports in the minds of fans and corporate sponsors.

The Mizuho Americas Open is far from a one-week moment. It’s about building the future of the game with a unique format, Roberts said.

It starts with Mizuho Americas, a first-time tour sponsor that was determined to do something special. For that reason, the event will feature 24 of the top junior female golfers, who will be competing in their own tournament this week.

It goes deeper than that, however.

The junior golfers will play practice rounds with the pros — and dine with them off the course — for mentoring lessons at the beginning of the week. On Thursday and Friday, the juniors will play in their own threesomes. But, on the weekend, each junior will join the LPGA players during their rounds.

It’s a unique opportunity for education and access, Roberts said.

“It’s a groundbreaking event,” she said. “Mizuho Americas is a brand-new title sponsor who is really invested in not only makes the event a success overall, but they also are really focused on the impact that they can make on the players, which is extremely unique.

“I think they are changing what it means to be a title sponsor on the LPGA.”

New Jersey sponsors

The Mizuho Americas Open includes a number of sponsors that are based in New Jersey or have a strong presence here, including Hackensack Meridian Health, BMW and Aon.

Cheryl Gilberg, chief marketing officer at Mizuho Americas, said that has been the goal from the start.

“Our marketing, events and creative teams have been working diligently over the past year to create a world-class tournament that is both premium and purposeful,” she said. “The Mizuho Americas Open, an event which is rooted in showcasing our values, means a great deal to our firm.”

Roberts said creating the concept for the unique event was a team effort among Mizuho Americas, Liberty National, LPGA icon Michele Wie West, the tournament host, and Excel Sports, the owner and operator of the event.

“Mizuho was not only interested in getting into this space, but shaking things up,” she said. “Liberty National not only has hosted the President’s Cup and the FedEx Cup playoffs, but they’ve also been extremely invested in junior golf and have hosted a few AJGA Invitationals in the past. And tournament host Michele Wie West always has been interested in growing the game.

“All these parties came together, along with Excel Sports, and came up with this unique concept. We have events where celebrities play, but we don’t have anywhere where the juniors get to play in this way, side by side, with the pros inside the ropes.”

One of the juniors, Katie Li of Basking Ridge, will get to play with the pros before heading to play collegiately at Duke University. Including Li, the junior field of 24 is made up of Top 26-ranked players in the world.

“This is really the next generation of the LPGA that we’re going to be able to showcase here at Liberty National,” Roberts said.

These players will get a real-time look at their potential future.

Want to go?

Several ticket options are available, including general admission for $35 that provides access to the tournament grounds any day Wednesday-Sunday, and a 5-day pass for $125. Veterans, first responders, active military and juniors 17 and under receive free general admission.

Corporate hospitality packages still are available and include a selection of premium food and beverage options, along with preferred parking. Hospitality packages are also available for individuals and corporations seeking the ultimate entertainment experience.

“They are going to see how the pros handle the stress of a big event, how they approach different shots, which I think is really important as we continue to grow the game,” she said. “We’re really looking at the entire week as an opportunity for education and mentorship.”

And marketing.

The event comes at a time when women’s sports have never been hotter. The NCAA women’s basketball tournament had its best ratings ever. The Women’s College World Series, which starts this week, figures to do the same.

Roberts said the event will aim to capture some of this momentum by having pro basketball players from the New York Liberty of the WNBA and pro soccer players from FC Gotham of the NWSL at the event.

“Women have always been this great — it’s just now that people are starting to pay attention,” she said. “We have an opportunity to bring a lot of these professional women athletes together and showcase them to the world.

“It’s an opportunity to get more eyeballs on women’s sports in general.”

And, hopefully, for more than a week.

Playing Liberty National this week, Baltusrol in June and Pebble Beach (California) in July means women’s golf is getting more and more opportunities to play the top courses in the country.

Roberts, who works for Excel Sports, said the goal is to make this the norm. That’s why she’s happy the event has a three-year deal with Liberty National — offering more opportunities to make it even better.

“We know this year will be a huge success, but, for us, it’s just the beginning,” she said. “Come June 5, we’re going to start to plan for next year.”

Roberts, who spent a number of years working in junior golf, said nothing would make her happier than to see some of this year’s juniors become the pros in future years.

“We’re going to crown two champions on the 18th green of Liberty National with the Statue of Liberty in the background, so it’s going to be a great week,” she said. “And we know many of these 24 girls are going to eventually turn pro.

“Before we know it, they could be coming back and playing as an LPGA professional at this very same event. That would be really special.”