HARRIS, Michigan, June 19, 2017 - The Symetra Tour, the official qualifying Tour for the LPGA, reaches the midway point of the 2017 season with the seventh annual Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass Golf Club from Friday, June 23 through Sunday, June 25. The Island Resort Championship is the fourth event of a six week stretch. The Tour stays in the state of Michigan next week with the Tullymore Classic in Canadian Lakes.
The field of 144 players from the United States and 30 countries around the globe will compete for a $150,000 total tournament purse and the winner will earn $22,500. The Volvik Race for the Card money list is beginning to take shape and players are jockeying for position inside the top 10. Following the Symetra Tour Championship (Oct. 5-8), the top 10 on the money list will earn LPGA membership for the 2018 season.
Play will begin at 7:30 a.m. all three days of the tournament. There will be a cut to the low 60 and ties following Saturday’s second round.
The Island Resort Championship started in 2011. Tournament winners include Stephanie Kim (2011), Leah Wigger (2012), Kim Kaufman (2013), Molly Aronsson (2014), Dani Holmqvist (2015) and Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong (2016). Last year, Santiwiwatthanaphong carded a final round 69 to finish at 6-under, two strokes clear of Jackie Stoelting, Madelene Sagstrom and Peiyun Chien. All four finished inside the top 10 on the final money list and are now playing on the LPGA.
The winner of the Island Resort Championship has gone onto earn a Tour card (through the Volvik Race for the Card money list or Qualifying Tournament) three of the last four years: Santiwiwatthanaphong (2016), Holmqvist (2015) and Kaufman (2013).
The field includes three players from the state of Michigan: Lindsey McPherson (Flushing), Christine Meier (Rochester Hills) and Elizabeth Nagel (DeWitt) along with three players from Wisconsin: Brooke Ferrell (Edgerton), Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton) and Jenna Peters (Kohler).
The field is incredibly strong this week as nine of the top 10 on the current money list will tee it up including the top seven. The only player in the top ten not scheduled to compete is No. 8 Paola Moreno (Cali, Colombia). In fact, 19 of the top 20 on the money list are in the field.
Sweetgrass Golf Club is considered one of the most challenging courses on Tour. The lowest winning score is 10-under (2015), but the winning score has been as high as 1-under (2014). Sweetgrass is a par-72 and will play 6,439 yards this week.
JAENGKIT, CHAN STEAL SHOW IN DECATURTwo players that most on Tour knew little about stole the show this past weekend in Decatur at the 33rd annual Decatur-Forsyth Classic. Chorphaka Jaengkit (Bangkok, Thailand) made a 35-foot birdie putt on 16 to take the lead and went onto pick up her first career win. She skyrocketed from No. 131 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list to No. 16 with the first place payout of $19,500.
Jaengkit is an underdog story. She quit golf during her final two years of high school and didn’t pick it up again until she was at Grand Canyon University (a Division II school at the time) and needed a scholarship. She played in Asia last year and contemplated going back to Asia after a slow start this season on the Symetra Tour.
Tiffany Chan (Hong Kong), who was making her debut on Tour, tee’d off well before the leaders and turned in a 9-under, 63 on Sunday to move into the lead before the leaders started. She remained in the lead until Jaengkit made birdie on holes 15 and 16. Chan finished in second place and pocketed $12,311 to get to 29th on the money list.
Chan started her college career at Daytona State University and ended it at USC. She represented Hong Kong at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
FIRST-YEAR PLAYERS GRABBING ALL THE HEADLINESWith Jaengkit’s win on Sunday, six of the ten events have been won by first year players. While she is not technically considered a rookie (she took membership in 2016, but did not make a start), Jaengkit is in her first year on Tour. The other first year players to win are: Daniela Darquea (IOA Championship), Hannah Green (Sara Bay Classic), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Symetra Classic and Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY) and Celine Boutier (Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic).
Of the top 20 players on the money list, seven are in their first year on the Symetra Tour (No. 1 Nanna Koerstz Madsen, No. 2 Celine Boutier, No. 5 Hannah Green, No. 6 Daniela Darquea, No. 12 Lindsey Weaver, No. 16 Chorphaka Jaengkit and No. 19 Elizabeth Szokol).
KEEP AN EYE ON DYEAfter missing the cut in three of four events in April and early May, Kendall Dye (Edmond, Okla.) has found her way. She has finished inside the top 15 in three straight starts including her win two weeks ago at the Four Winds Invitational. She now ranks seventh on the Volvik Race for the Card money list after a T12 result last week at the Decatur-Forsyth Classic.
While she missed the cut at Sweetgrass in 2016, she finished in a tie for ninth in Harris in 2014, the year she earned her LPGA Tour card by finishing eighth on the final money list.
Dye is 17-under-par in her last six rounds on the Symetra Tour.
SECOND POTAWATOMI CUP EVENTThe Island Resort Championship is the second of four Potawatomi Cup events. The Potawatomi Cup, which is in its fourth year, provides a $40,000 pot of bonus money available to the players based on performance in the four events sponsored by Potawatomi nation tribes. There is $8,500 up for grabs at each tournament.
Kendall Dye (Edmond, Okla.) won the first Potawatomi Cup event (Four Winds Invitational) and leads with 500 points.
The third Potawatomi Cup event is the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship from July 28-30. The player with the most points at the end of the fourth event (PHC Classic in Milwaukee) will pocket a $6,000 bonus.
The money earned from the Potawatomi Cup does not count towards the Volvik Race for the Card money list.
Min Seo Kwak (2014), Annie Park (2015) and Laura Gonzalez Escallon (2016) are the three winners of the Potawatomi Cup.
2016 PLAYER OF THE YEAR, MADELENE SAGSTROM, SHINING ON LPGAMadelene Sagstrom, who broke the single-season earnings record on the Symetra Tour in 2016, is beginning to find her way on the LPGA Tour. She finished T4 (best result) on Sunday at the Meijer LPGA Classic and now has finished inside the top 30 in three of her last four starts.
After missing the cut in her first three LPGA starts, Sagstrom has two top 10 finishes on the LPGA and ranks 48th on the money list.
Sagstrom finished in a tie for second last year at the Island Resort Championship.
NORTHERN MICHIGAN’S CARO ELS SET TO COMPETEOne of the sponsor exemptions this week is Caro Els, who is a sophomore at Northern Michigan. She will compete in her first career professional event.
“To be playing with players at this level is extremely exciting, but I’m definitely a little nervous too,” admitted Els, who is not related to the golf icon Ernie Els. “My goal for next week is just to try my best at keeping up and have fun.”
Caro was Northern Michigan’s top finisher at four spring events during the 2017 season, including the GLIAC Championships (2nd) and NCAA East Super Regional (20th). In 2014, she won a silver medal at the Africa Youth Games.
She plans to play professional golf one day after finishing her masters in athletic training.
The second exemption is Brooke Ferrell, who recently completed her final year at the University of Wisconsin. Ferrell was also an exemption in 2016 and made the cut (T54). Her older sister, Allyssa, plays on Tour full-time and is also in the field. Allyssa finished in a tie for fifth last year at the Island Resort Championship.
- Rachel Rohanna finished T43 last week on the LPGA and is in the field for the Island Resort Championship. Rohanna ranks 21st on the Symetra Tour’s Volvik Race for the Card money list in seven starts.
- Allison Emrey (Charlotte, N.C.) recorded her fourth top 10 finish at the Decatur-Forsyth Classic (T8). She now ranks 26th on the money list.
- 2015 NCAA individual champion, Emma Talley, finished T5 last week to move up to 14th on the money list.