LOCAL PRODUCT GABRIELLE SHIPLEY TIED FOR THE LEAD
In the first competitive round on the Symetra Tour in 138 days, three individuals shot 6-under par 66 to share the seventh annual FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship 18-hole lead including local talent and Grand Valley State University alumna Gabrielle Shipley (Hastings, Michigan).
Gabrielle and her younger sister Sarah are the two tournament sponsor exemptions this week at Battle Creek Country Club. While they have competed in several tournaments together, they had never been paired together until today.
“We didn’t know how it would go, but I think it went well,” Shipley said. “I wanted to stay in the present because I feel like at times my mind can wander. That is something I have always really fought with, but I feel like I did a good job controlling it today and speaking it out of my mind.”
After the 18-hole career-best on the Symetra Tour for Shipley, she said that not much will change going into the second round.
“I wear the same pajamas every night, so will continue to do that,” Shipley joked. “Probably eat a similar breakfast because it worked today. Keep the same routine and get whatever amount of sleep that my Whoop tells me I need to get tonight. Do everything in my power to control things I can and to come out tomorrow and stay in the present again.”
LIU, BAIK ALSO FIRE HOT ROUNDS ON DAY ONE IN BATTLE CREEK
Ruixin Liu (Guangdong, China) and Ji Eun Baik (Cumming, Georgia) join Shipley in looking down on the rest of the field at 6-under par 66 in the second event of the 2020 Symetra Tour season.
Liu managed to start strong even though she is dealing with a severe foot injury to her sesamoid bone. Across her last six starts on the “Road to the LPGA,” the three-time Symetra Tour champion has not missed a cut and captured five top-10 finishes, including two victories.
“I basically rested my foot because my doctor told me to take two months off, so I didn’t do anything and then started to slowly practice,” said Liu, after walking her first full 18 holes since the final round of the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in March. “I didn’t have any nerves today because I didn’t have any expectations. I just want to try and finish 18 holes every day without injuring myself further.”
Meanwhile, the result for Baik is a Symetra Tour career-best. The second-year pro from Mississippi State University felt the nerves to begin her round with a double bogey on No. 2, but fought back to right the ship.
“On No. 1, I got the jitters and hit it right, then right again, but a long par putt. Second hole, I went right, then left and made a double,” Baik said laughingly. “My nerves left after that because I knew I could not play if I was nervous like that. I was making a lot of putts, had some good bounces on the green where it went to the hole so a couple tap-ins. I definitely took advantage of all the par-5s out here, birdied three of the four.”
POTAWATOMI CUP BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN SCHECHTER
One of six players within two shots of the lead, Maia Schechter (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) used six birdies to shoot 4-under par 68 and find herself in contention heading into the weekend in Battle Creek.
The FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship kicks off the seventh consecutive Potawatomi Cup series. In her last eight starts in Potawatomi Cup events, Schechter has not missed a cut with six top-25s including a win at the 2018 Four Winds Invitational. So, it should come as really no surprise that she finds herself near the top of the leaderboard after day one.
“All the Potawatomi Cup events are in the same geographical area,” said Schechter, after opening round with six birdies. “I love the bent grass and the greens, just the style of the courses in the series. They all fit my game really well. The course is in great shape, which is so much fun. I was just so excited to be out playing golf today. Positive mood all day, unfazed even in tough situations.”
During the fourth-month hiatus, Schechter competed in a men’s event on the Swing Thought Tour at the Belmont Lake Golf Club in Rocky Mount, N.C., from June 18-20. She discussed how the experience gave her quality insight into the work she was putting in.
“I played really well. It was fun to be practicing and working on my game, have that competition and see that I’m working on the right things,” Schechter said. “It was a good gauge of making sure I was on the right track the last couple months."
Lauren Stephenson (-5, T4) on using this event to prepare for LPGA Tour season:
“Since we’re going to be only a couple hours away for the LPGA return, I figured what better opportunity to get an extra tournament in. I drove up here and am glad I did because this week will really help me to prepare for the next two weeks. I only missed one green [in regulation], which I was happy about. I hit it well and can take that confidence the rest of the weekend.”
Greta Voelker (-4, T7) on making her first start as a Symetra Tour member:
“I was happy to get into the tournament since I was still an alternate early in the week. I only missed one green, so I had a lot of chances out there and took advantage of a couple of them. I know there’s a lot of really great players on Tour and I need to continue hitting fairways to see what I can do. I am looking forward to continuing the way I’m playing and just have fun.”
Janie Jackson (-3, T10) on being back in competition after the four-month break:
“It felt really good, kind of weird at first and like it always done at the beginning after the offseason which is essentially what the break felt like. I was excited to get back and competing again. At 3-under, I will take it. That’s a good pace setter and I’ll continue to build off it. My game is in a good place. I did the same things between March and now that I did back between December and March, worked on similar things. Just need to continue with minimal mistakes, make some putts and I’ll be good.”
Ana Belac (-3, T10) on making her professional debut and shooting 3-under par 69:
“It prevents you from trying to scramble for something, you can just play your own game. I was a little nervous starting out, obviously. I holed out a chip on No. 14 for birdie and that got me going. I had a lot of really close birdie calls, but everything was staying on the edge. I was really happy when the last one [on No. 9] dropped after a good read and good pace on it. I’m happy with my round, having not played tournament golf since March. I had so many short birdie attempts that I’m really confident going into tomorrow. Hopefully more of them will drop.”
- Born March 21, 1994
- Shipley is a native of Hastings, Michigan
- Medalist at 2011 MHSAA Division 3 State Championship for Hastings H.S.
- Four-time All-GLIAC First Team selection for Grand Valley State University
- Won the 2016 NCAA Division II National Championship individual title as a senior
- 11-time medalist for the Lakers including the 2015 GLIAC Championship individual title
- Two-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) Division II First Team All-American
- Completed 54 holes at Stage I of the 2016 LPGA Qualifying Tournament to first earn Symetra Tour membership as a 2017 rookie
- Made three cuts across 10 starts in 2019 with season-best result T26 at Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge
- Made her first start on the LPGA Tour in the 2019 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give after earning a spot in the field through the Monday Qualifier