After a four-month hiatus from competition due to COVID-19, the 2020 Symetra Tour “Road to the LPGA” resumes at Battle Creek Country Club in Michgan for the seventh annual FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship which will be played from July 24-26.
The 144-players competing this week will be playing for a total purse of US$175,000, with the winner’s share for the event being US$26,250.
The tournament will be played over 54-holes, with a cut to the leading 60 players and ties after 36 holes.
Australia will have two representatives in the field this week. Victorian rookie Julienne Soo, who has been holed up in the US after heading stateside following the Women’s NSW Open in early March will be joined in the field by South Australian Steph Na, who has also been in the US patiently waiting for her opportunity to get back to competitive golf.
Na said she hopes the work she has put in the past few months will stand her in good stead this week in Michigan,
“We have been updated with potential restart dates throughout this time so I decided that it would be ideal to take it easy for a little while, especially at the beginning of isolation life.
I've been committed to keeping up my fitness, eating well and staying healthy, which is always a little easier to do when you are located in one spot for an extended period of time. I've been extremely lucky to have had access to golf the entire time.
Now that we have a firm restart date, I've been practicing a few days a week and playing the weekends, trying to keep the weekly routine somewhat regular to a tournament week.”
Na said she managed to fill her days in isolation without too much trouble,
“I can't say that I've picked up any new hobbies as such, but I've definitely challenged myself to cook more, trying new recipes and baking some goodies. It's been fun and nice to have the time to experiment. I made sausage rolls for the first time and the first batch were good, but the second batch were great and my housemates gave me top ratings, so that was exciting!!!
Na said that after a playing career spanning more than eleven years isolation has been quite a positive experience for her,
“Personally, I feel very lucky to have been "stuck" where I am, the golf courses stayed open and I am close to the beach which gives me a sense of home, so for me I didn't have to go through complete isolation, which I am so grateful for. I have been very sensitive in knowing that many players have been stuck in isolation.
"I feel lucky to say that I haven't felt like I've struggled too much during this time. I've just really tried to embrace this "break" and make the most of it. I think since being on Tour for so long, and not having this much "spare" time before, it's actually been quite nice. I miss competing but I've tried to look at all the positives that this time has given me."
Na said that she planned to play whenever she has the opportunity in 2020, adding that she and the rest of the competitors will probably be feeling a few butterflies after such a long break and travelling in the US where the COVID-19 virus is still prevalent in most areas,
“I do plan to play the events that are currently scheduled. I think it's important to play tournaments and keep in touch with competitive golf, and by the time we do get to play a tournament, I'm more than sure I'll be itching to get on the road and play some tournament golf.
“I'm really excited to get back competing again, especially as we’re playing Battle Creek CC – I really like the course, so that’s a bonus. I’m just so keen to get back onto tournament mode; feel some nerves, see my tour mates and really see where my game is at on the competitive level. Although, I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous about travelling in regards to COVID-19. If only we could teleport!”
Na said she also used the break as an to relax and put into context personal struggles,
“It's been a great time to really take a step back and reconnect with ourselves and it's been a wonderful opportunity to learn what is truly important, what brings us joy and therefore we can move forward expressing gratitude more than ever.
I do recognise that many people have been faced with major challenges financially which is really hard to see, and I really wish there was a way for them to all recover.
But overall, I do hope that this time has taught everyone something beneficial that they can take with them as we return to "normality""
Mike Nichols, the Chief Business Officer of the Symetra Tour said,
“We are excited and grateful to get back on the road, with support from sponsors like FireKeepers Casino Hotel—partnering with us now for seven years—we are able to start back up and provide opportunities for our members to continue to play in 2020.”
Tournament Director and FireKeepers Casino Hotel CEO Kathy George said,
“FireKeepers Casino Hotel and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi are honored to be the first stop back for the Symetra Tour.
We are thrilled to have been in partnership for seven years now and look forward to having a great week of professional golf here in southwest Michigan.”
The FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship also marks the first of two events in this year’s Potawatomi Cup series. As well as the normal purse payout for each event, players receive “Potawatomi Points” with US$20,000 in bonus money to be distributed at the conclusion of the Four Winds Invitational at Blackthorn Golf Club in South Bend, Indiana from 4-6 September.
The top five players in the points standings receive a sum from the prize pool including $10,000 to the Potawatomi Cup winner and US$5,000 to the runner-up.
ABOUT THE SYMETRA TOUR
The Symetra Tour is the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour and enters its 40th competitive season in 2020. With the support of entitlement partner Symetra, the Tour’s mission is to prepare the world’s best young women professional golfers for a successful career on the LPGA Tour. Since Symetra’s inaugural sponsorship year in 2012, the Symetra Tour has grown from 16 tournaments and US$1.7 million in prize money to a record US$4.0 million in prize money awarded in 2019. With more than 600 alumnae moving on to the LPGA Tour, former Symetra Tour players including Australian Karrie Webb have won a total of 445 LPGA titles. Follow the Symetra Tour on the web at www.SymetraTour.com, as well as Facebook.com/Road2LPGA, Twitter.com/Road2LPGA and Instagram @road2lpga.