HARRIS, Mich. — The 12th stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Sweetgrass Golf Club in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the ninth annual Island Resort Championship from June 21-23.
Greeting the 156-player field in Harris, Mich. is a total purse of $200,000. 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 $30,000.
Defending champion Ruixin Liu (Dalian, China) is not among the competitors, as she finished No. 1 in the 2018 Volvik Race for the Card to be named Epson Tour Player of the Year. The victory in the Great Lakes State was the first of three for Liu in her sophomore season on the “Road to the LPGA” and one of 12 top-25 finishes.
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.
ISLAND RESORT CHAMPIONSHIP TAKES OVER AS EVIAN QUALIFIER
For the first time starting in 2019, the Island Resort Championship will serve as the official United States qualifier for The Evian Championship contested from July 25-28 in Evian-les-Bains, France.
It marks the fourth straight year a Epson Tour event has provided players the opportunity to qualify for one of the five LPGA Tour majors, with two spots up for grabs. The PHC Classic was the springboard each of the last two seasons and in 2016 it was the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship.
“I’m bummed to not be playing in the KPMG [Women’s PGA Championship], but it means a lot for me to have the opportunity to play this event and try to get into Evian,” said Brittany Marchand (Orangeville, Ontario, Canada), a LPGA Tour member with 10 starts on the big stage this year. “Unfortunately, my game hasn’t been in a good spot, but I really feel it is starting to come together.”
Marchand and (Laon, France) were the top two finishers at the 2017 PHC Classic to qualify for The Evian Championship that season. Then last year, it was (Charlottesville, Virginia) and (Laguna, Philippines) who advanced.
Meanwhile, (Fulton, Mississippi) and (La Hulpe, Belgium) went No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship in 2016. Each made the cut at The Evian Championship, with McDonald finishing tied for 30th at 1-under par and Gonzalez Escallon ending tied for 55th at 5-over par.
COUPLE COLLEGIATE TIES AT 12TH STOP
Three individuals with ties to Michigan institutions for higher education are featured among the competition in the Great Lakes State and are names to keep an eye on once the event starts Friday.
The green and white of Michigan State University will be donned by amateur and tournament sponsor exemption Yurika Tanida (Yokohama, Japan), who just completed her sophomore campaign in East Lansing, as well as Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin). Meanwhile, Grand Valley State University has one lone representative in Sarah Hoffman (Saline, Michigan).
“Being a Spartan means bleeding green forever and that’s what I feel competing in Michigan,” said Ferrell, also the player that is closest in proximity to her hometown. “I love to show off my green and white in every state I go to because I’m so proud of being an alumna. This event is also close to home which I love since I get to spend some extra bonus time with my puppy Breslyn.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE ISLAND RESORT CHAMPIONSHIP
A total of 36 countries are represented this week at the Island Resort Championship, led by the United States with 79 players then followed by Canada having the next highest of eight competitors.
“When the girls I spend most of my time with find success, it motivates and shows me that I can also do as good as they are,” said Elin Arvidsson (Falkenberg, Sweden), coming off a career-best finish of tied for 10th at The Forsyth Classic presented by Decatur Park District. “To be part of the Swedish group is very special. We go around the United States and play golf, thousands of miles away from family. It’s about more than birdies and wins, but all the laughing, overweight suitcases and host families on the journey.”
Individuals from 27 different states are also set to tee it up at Sweetgrass Golf Club. Two players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 16.
“I’m thrilled to see the continued commitment Island Resort & Casino has toward women’s golf every year,” said Samantha Troyanovich (Grosse Pointe, Michigan). “Harris is always one of our (the players) favorite stops on Tour and that makes me a proud Michigander. It’s great to compete in my home state and enjoy all it has to offer including, but not limited to, the lovely people and beautiful scenery.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE UPPER PENINSULA
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Menominee County, as 44 rookies are in the field and eager for the 12th event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Katie Yoo (Orlando, Florida), who has played the weekend six times in the first 11 starts of her Epson Tour career. The 18-year-old is fresh off a season-best tied for 16th performance at The Forsyth Classic presented by Decatur Park District, one of two top-30 performances this year.
“There have been many learning experiences throughout my rookie year, but finally starting out on the professional journey is more than I ever dreamed,” Yoo said. “I’ve had some good finishes and some results that you try to forget, but in the end I’m growing stronger as a golfer and person. I hope to use my performance at the Forsyth Classic as a springboard for the rest of the season and continue to demonstrate that I belong at the next level.”
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 24 events on the 2019 calendar.
With 11 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following The Forsyth Classic presented by Decatur Park District. Eight of the 10 members from the group are in Harris including the current No. 9 Kyung Kim (Chandler, Arizona), coming off a tied for sixth result in Central Illinois.
“First half of the year has been filled with large purses and really set the landscape for the top-10,” said Kim, who has five top-10 results in 11 starts this season. “We have another big week now with the Island Resort Championship at $200,000 to make a jump and try to create some separation. Just hope to play my game and do the best I can.”
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.