BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The 18th stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Battle Creek Country Club in the Great Lakes State for the sixth annual FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship from August 16-18.
Greeting the 144-player field in Battle Creek is a total purse of $125,000. Individuals are set to compete in a 54-hole stroke play format with a cut to the low 60 players and ties after 36 holes. The winner’s share for the event is $18,750.
Defending champion Marta Sanz Barrio (Madrid, Spain) is among the competitors, as the win was the first of her Epson Tour career and one of four top-15 finishes from the Auburn University alumna. It helped propel Sanz Barrio to finish at No. 31 in the final 2018 Volvik Race for the Card standings.
Action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET all three days with play starting off No. 1 and No. 10 tees in the first and second round. Meanwhile, all groups will head off No. 1 tee in twosomes for the final round with a trophy presentation to follow on No. 18 green.
COLLEGIATE CONNECTIONS AT 18TH STOP
Seven individuals with ties to Michigan institutions for higher education are featured among competition in the Great Lakes State and players to keep an eye on once the event starts Friday.
Gabrielle Shipley (Hastings, Michigan) and Sarah Hoffman (Saline, Michigan) will don the Laker Blue & White of Grand Valley State University. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan has one lone Wolverine representative in amateur and tournament sponsor exemption Alisa Snyder (Ann Arbor, Michigan).
The largest contingent comes from Michigan State University with Elizabeth Nagel (DeWitt, Michigan) and Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin), as well as two of the six total tournament sponsor exemptions in amateurs Ally Geer-Park (Brighton, Michigan) and Haylin Harris (Carmel, Indiana).
“Having the opportunity to compete in my home state and represent the Green & White is really what it is all about,” said Nagel, who has played the weekend in six straight starts with four top-25s. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my years at MSU, including guidance from my coach and support from the countless people in the area. I’m extremely proud to be one of the few Michiganders on Tour and my favorite weeks are when we showcase Michigan’s great golf. I can’t wait to hear ‘Go Green’ from fans.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE FIREKEEPERS CASINO HOTEL CHAMPIONSHIP
A total of 34 countries are represented this week at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship, led by the United States with 72 players then followed by the Republic of Korea having the next highest of six competitors.
“We all know that golf is an individual sport, but it is pretty amazing how friends and family back home make you feel like you are not alone in this adventure,” said rookie Julie Aime (Nice, France), coming off a career-best finish of tied for fifth at the PHC Classic. “You play for yourself, yet still want to make them proud. With social media, phone calls and live scoring, they can truly be part of my journey.”
Individuals from 25 different states are also set to tee it up at Battle Creek Country Club. Seven players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 12.
“Playing in my hometown is something very special to me, especially since all year we travel away from family for the most part,” said Shipley, who competed in the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give in June. “Personally, having this event basically in my backyard allows me to spend time with them and share all the experiences with them. Family is very important to me and I’m blessed they can come cheer me on.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE GREAT LAKES STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Calhoun County, as 34 rookies are in the field and eager for the 18th event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Alivia Brown (Gig Harbor, Washington). The alumna of Washington State University has made seven cuts in 12 starts with a season-best tied for 13th result at the PHC Classic. Brown owns the all-time career scoring average mark for the Cougars of 73.79 and was a collegiate tournament winner at the 2017 WSU Cougar Cup.
“This year has been a ton of fun and also challenging, a real learning experience,” said Brown. “It isn’t an easy job, but surrounded by women who want to improve and get better really inspires me to work even harder. My goal is to contend each week and I’m getting closer to consistently doing that. Life on the road is so rewarding with many valuable lessons along the way and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
VOLVIK RACE FOR THE CARD UPDATE
The Epson Tour annually awards LPGA Tour membership to the top players on the Volvik Race for the Card money list at the end of the season and will usher in the next graduating class after 23 events on the 2019 calendar.
With 17 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the fifth annual PHC Classic. Eight members from the group are in Battle Creek including Jenny Coleman (Rolling Hills Estates, California), currently ranked No. 8 with six top-10s across 17 starts.
“We are winding down to the last quarter of the season,” said Coleman, who captured career-best solo second result at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic last month. “It’s important to get some good runs going, especially with all the high purses to close out the year. I have to keep pushing to the end.”
From 1999-2002, the official qualifying tour of the LPGA handed out three cards. Then from 2003-2007, that number increased to five before 10 were distributed starting in 2008. Since the inaugural year, a total of 147 players have graduated to the big stage.