HARRIS, Mich. — The ninth stop on the 2021 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Sweetgrass Golf Club in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the 10th annual Island Resort Championship from June 11-13.
Greeting the 144-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 Daniela Iacobelli (Melbourne, Florida) is among the competitors. The victory in the Great Lakes State in 2019 was one of three top-10 finishes that season, and her third career win on the Epson Tour. In seven starts this season, Iacobelli has made three cuts with a season-best finish of tied for sixth at the Epson Classic.
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 TIE AT NINTH STOP
One individual with a connection to Michigan institution for higher education is featured among the competition in Sarah Hoffman (Saline, Michigan), the lone Grand Valley State University representative. Hoffman also returned to Michigan last year for her second job as a nurse amid the COVID-19 pandemic to work at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor.
“I’m really excited to be back competing in my home state at the Island Resort Championship in Harris, Michigan,” said Hoffman. “This tournament is one of my favorites of the year, and the course is always in great shape, some might even call it pure.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE ISLAND RESORT CHAMPIONSHIP
A total of 30 countries are represented this week at the Island Resort Championship, led by the United States with 74 players then followed by Canada having the next highest of nine competitors.
“Playing in the U.S. Women’s Open was very special for me. In 2016, I decided to step away from competing because I lost the joy in the game. Last week was probably the most joy I’ve felt competing again and there is so much I’ll be taking away with me,” said Rebecca Lee-Bentham (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). “It’s awesome to see the popularity of golf grow in Canada and to see more enthusiasm from the younger generation. I am super grateful for the support and encouragement I get from back home and I’m passionate in doing what I can to help continue growing this amazing game.”
Individuals from 26 different states are also set to tee it up at Sweetgrass Golf Club. Four players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 12.
“I absolutely love being back in Michigan and especially back to Harris since it has been a while,” said Shasta Averyhardt (Flint, Michigan). “I am thrilled for Island Resort to be back on the schedule in 2021. The weather and golf courses are always so beautiful in the summer up north [in Michigan].”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE UPPER PENINSULA
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Menominee County, as 30 rookies are in the field and eager for the ninth event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Kelly Whaley (Palm Beach Gardens, Florida), making her fifth start as a professional on the Epson Tour this week. The University of North Carolina alumna was a two-time All-ACC Academic Team member, led her team to the 2016 Cougar Classic title and won the 2018 Briar Creek Invitational. Kelly tied the program record for individual low-round in competition (6-under par 66) and competed in two NCAA National Championships.
“I’m excited to compete this week in Harris and am looking forward to the opportunity. Sweetgrass Golf Club has amazing reviews and I’m eager to get the Island Resort Championship underway,” said Whaley. “Thanks to Kenneth Meshigaud, Island Resort Casino and Sweetgrass Golf Club, all of us competitors on the Epson Tour have another chance of reaching our goal of the LPGA. My game is ready, my mom is on the bag, and I am prepared to take on the Paul Albanese-design inspired course by the Hannahville Indian Community.”
RACE FOR THE CARD UPDATE
The Epson Tour annually awards LPGA Tour Membership to the top players on the Race for the Card money list. With eight tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship. Nine of the 10 members from the group are in Harris including current No. 5 Allison Emrey (Charlotte, North Carolina).
“I feel like I’m in a great position heading into the middle of the season,” said Emrey, the 2021 IOA Golf Classic presented by RP Funding champion. “I know the next few courses really well, so I am going to use my experience from the past to help guide me.”
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 162 players have graduated to the big stage.