Senior PGA

ACLU

The ACLU is asking a Berrien County judge to dismiss charges against three protestors who were ticketed for being too noisy during the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor last May.

The three were taking part in a larger protest against the golf championship, the development of a city park, and the city’s emergency manager.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Senior PGA Championship is underway today in Benton Harbor.

The city is home to the Whirlpool Corporation, the largest appliance manufacturer in the world; and it's also the poorest city in Michigan. In 2010 the average household in Benton Harbor earned just $17,000 a year.

Whirlpool's plan to turn Benton Harbor into a tourist destination

Recently, a steady stream of tour busses and a fleet of silver Mercedes with the PGA logo cruised through town.

At times you could see people inside the cars point at boarded up buildings as they drove by.

The Harbor Shores golf course sits in sharp contrast to the city’s poverty. But near the golf course there are plans for condos, two luxury hotels (to be completed by 2014), and a marina.

Whirlpool executives came up with this concept in the 1980s. They wanted to turn more than three million square feet of old manufacturing space near the Lake Michigan shore into a destination for golfers.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Senior PGA tournament for professional golfers is in Benton Harbor this week.

Famous golfers began practicing on the course Monday afternoon. Harbor Shore golf course was partially built on city owned land. Elected city leaders agreed to lease the property with the hope of attracting jobs and tourists to the region.

Herb Caldwell is Vice President of the Consortium for Community Development. The non-profit group tries to improve the community’s workforce skills. He says the group has helped more than 260 people get temporary jobs for the tour.

But Caldwell says the tournament is also bringing a sense of excitement and pride to its residents.

“People will walk away from this – not only the people internally who live here – with a different perspective on their community but the people who will visit here will now have a different picture of Benton Harbor,” Caldwell said.

But not everyone is pleased.

Benton Harbor is the poorest city in Michigan with an average household income of $17,000 a year. The city government is under the control of an emergency manager.

Chicago Golf Report / Creative Commons

More than 300 people turned out to a job fair this week to get a temporary job when the Senior PGA tour comes to Benton Harbor next month.

Herb Caldwell is Vice President of the Consortium for Community Development. It’s a non-profit group focused on solving chronic poverty in northern Berrien County.

“We’re really surprised and really happy with the excitement and the eagerness of the folks in our area who want to get out an support the Senior PGA golf tournament,” Caldwell said. The job fair was Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. 

PGA is a first for Benton Harbor

The Senior PGA tour will be at the new Harbor Shores golf course.

There’s been controversy over the golf course for two reasons; it was partially built on sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and elected city leaders agreed to lease portions of the beachfront park while the city was facing severe financial problems. The course has prompted a number of lawsuits, but most have been settled in favor of the golf course.

Benton Harbor's city government is now run by an emergency manager. The elected, but powerless, city commission voted earlier this month to withdraw its support of the Senior PGA coming to their city.