HARRIS, Mich. — Entering the third stop of a four-week June stretch spanning the Midwest, the Symetra Tour is in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan for the 8th annual Island Resort Championship to be contested at Sweetgrass Golf Club from June 22-24.
The 144-player field will compete for a purse of $175,000, a total that recently increased from $150,000.
“Every year, this tournament has been one of, if not the favorite event on the schedule for players,” said Mike Nichols, the Chief Business Officer of the Symetra Tour. “Island Resort & Casino, as well as Sweetgrass Golf Club, provide first-class hospitality off the course by allowing players to explore everything the U.P. has to offer, like boating excursions on Lake Michigan. At the same time, they provide an inside the ropes experience on pristine grounds that is unparalleled.”
This year’s tournament winner will earn $26,250, a large sum in their pursuit of LPGA Tour membership for 2019 through the Volvik Race for the Card.
For defending champion Emma Talley (Princeton, Kentucky), a 2017 Symetra Tour graduate, the Island Resort Championship acted as a springboard to help find her way onto the biggest stage in women’s professional golf.
“I really enjoyed my time in Harris, it was a lot of fun to be able to stay on-site and the golf course is amazing,” said Talley, currently No. 46 on the LPGA official money list. “I love the links feel to it. I also got my first professional victory there, which helped get me to where I am now. It will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Since opening in 2008, Sweetgrass Golf Club has consistently been ranked among the top-20 best public courses in Michigan by Golfweek and other publications. It features luscious, park-like areas and a signature island green on No. 15.
Designed by Michigan native Paul Albanese, who received a Master’s in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University, there is a unique dedication to preserving the area’s cultural history, as holes are named after traditional Potawatomi heritage.
“It’s always in good shape, they bring a lot of resort play here, stay and play people who come all the way up just to play here,” said Liz Nagel (DeWitt, Michigan), one of two competitors this week that call Michigan home. “We’re lucky to play here. It’s really pure right now, in really great shape. We’re going to have pure Michigan weather and I think that’s one of the reasons why people like coming here, because it is always in good shape and they really love having us.”
Individuals will compete in a 54-hole stroke play format, with a cut to the low 60 players and ties made after 36 holes. First and second round action will get underway at 7:30 a.m. ET on Friday and Saturday, respectively, with play off No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
Meanwhile, the final round is set to begin at 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday in twosomes off No. 1. At the completion of the tournament, an awards ceremony will take place on No. 18 green.
MEIER BACK IN HOME STATE
One of two Michigan natives in the 144-player field for the 8th annual Island Resort Championship, Christine Meier (Rochester Hills, Michigan) had never been to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of her home state until 2015.
That was the first time she played in this event. So, what were her initial thoughts?
“It’s completely different,” said Meier. “I’m from the Detroit area, nothing like this is similar to there. It’s really fun, they make it a great event for us and put a lot into it. The people are just wonderful.”
Growing up, the two-time Michigan Amateur champion spent a lot of time in the Traverse City area, especially Crystal Mountain for the Michigan PGA Women’s Open tournament. Every so often, Meier and her family, including sister and former Symetra Tour player Amy, would sprinkle in trips to Mackinac Island, as well as Mackinac City.
A graduate of Michigan State University, Meier is also one of three Spartans in the field this week, joined by Liz Nagel and Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin). There may be a little bias, but if you ask Meier which school chant rings louder in “The Yoop” between MSU and the University of Michigan, you’ll get a quick and resounding answer.
“Green and white, for sure,” Meier said laughingly.
However, her allegiance hasn’t stopped Meier from forming a close bond with her host family, who she has stayed with every year since her first stop in the U.P. on the Symetra Tour.
“I absolutely love them, but their three boys all went to [the University of] Michigan,” said Meier. “My first year I walked in, my sister was playing at that time (she went to Ohio State), we walk in the house and were choosing bedrooms. I opened a door to full maize and blue. I said, ‘Amy, that one is yours. I’ll sleep in the other one.’”
Ever since her first time stepping foot on the other side of the Mackinac Bridge, the only thing that comes as close to the time spent with her host family is time spent at Sweetgrass Golf Club.
“They feed us wonderful food everyday, which is great. We have a full player lounge that we can go into whenever we want,” Meier said. “They have food, drinks and everything for spectators out there. They make it as close to a LPGA experience as we get. On top of that, they’re so excited we’re here. The fact this is one of our biggest crowds every year, in northern Michigan, is incredible. They’re awesome!”