CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – The only thing larger than the throng of media on-hand at Whistle Bear Golf Club for Monday’s media day was the smile on the face of the Manulife LPGA Classic’s new tournament director, Milaina Wright.
Wright, less than a year into her tenure, took over for outgoing tournament director Richard Kuypers. Kuypers headed up the Manulife event for three years before moving on to join Molson Coors in 2014.
Both Wright and Kuypers have a shared past-employer: Golf Canada. And, Wright says her experience working at Golf House was invaluable.
“I was privileged to work under Bill Paul, Brent McLaughlin and Sean Van Kesteren, tournament directors who have been in the golf industry for a lot longer than I have,” Wright explains. “These are guys who taught me a lot about organizing a large-scale championship, and all the details that go into it.”
Wright worked as the manager of professional championships for Golf Canada for a little less than three years. She was also the governing body’s coordinator of professional championships for nearly four years.
The graduate of Brock University – with both a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters of Arts in sport management – is no stranger to dealing with elite athletes. She was the assistant basketball coach at Brock for six months, and also played basketball at a high level herself.
These experiences, she says, helps her now while dealing with professional golfers. Although, on a slightly different scale.
“One thing I take most from my sports background is my composure under stressful situations,” she says. “There’s always something happening in a golf tournament you can’t control, so I’m always trying to find a solution, find the next step.”
Wright continues to say that the Manulife LPGA Classic will be offering laundry services, massage services and hair and makeup services to the 150 women playing in the tournament. As the third event in four weeks, Wright knows it’s tough to be on the road for that long a stretch.
“We want to make sure they enjoy our Canadian hospitality,” Wright explains.
With less than a month to go until the tournament, Wright’s to-do list is growing ever longer. But now, she says it’s all about the execution. Her team is excited for what’s to come, especially when it comes to what will be offered to the fans.
“It’s all about getting everything ready,” she says. “We’re still recruiting volunteers, but we’re getting more people every day. For right now, we’re just getting the pieces together and getting everything going.”
“We want to put on the best show and entertain the players. It’s all for the spectators,” Wright continues.
Wright happily confirmed Monday that world no.1 Lydia Ko would be in the field, along with some other big names on the LPGA Tour like Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Brittany Lincicome, Michelle Wie, and Brooke Henderson. Henderson was on-hand Monday to accept a sponsor’s invitation from Manulife.
“This tournament is known for great spectators and large galleries, and that’s getting well-known on Tour,” explains Wright. “The players want to come. A few players played Whistle Bear last year and loved it. We’re going to draw some major talent.”
Between the strong field, the exciting buzz being generated, and a fresh agreement with the new golf course for the next five years, it only makes sense that Milaina Wright has a reason to smile.
If you’re interested in volunteering for the Manulife LPGA Classic, you can click here to learn more.