Symetra Tour golfers take on Sweetgrass for fourth time

By BRYCE?DEROUIN

The Daily Press, Escanaba

HARRIS – There will be 144 women taking part in the fourth-annual Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass Golf Club, this weekend. But not everyone has taken the same path to get here.

Some have already established success on the LPGA Symetra Tour, and are fresh off of competing at last weekend’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst. Meanwhile, others like Marquette amateur Avery Rochester, will be looking to make her mark this weekend and prove that she belongs among the rest of the field.

Being nervous is typical for anyone making their professional debut, but for Rochester-being the only player from the U.P. in the tournament, thus, making her the “local” representative -she began feeling the nerves long before.

“I’ve had nerves for the past week,” Rochester said. “But I think once I hit my first shot on the first hole, I think I will settle down. I’ve been practicing a lot, everyday. I’ve been playing pretty well. I’m pretty confident about my game right now, but I just want to see where I stack up against all the professionals.”

Rochester was granted one of the two tournament’s sponsor exemptions. She recently completed her freshman year at Columbia College, where she managed to win two tournaments. In high school at Marquette, she was a Division I U.P Champion in 2012 and 2013. But for this weekend, winning isn’t on her mind.

“I really want to make the cut to Sunday,” Rochester said about her goal for this weekend. “It would mean a lot and definitely show how much I work to get there, because I’ve definitely put a lot of time and effort.”

Rochester is set to tee-off on hole No. 10 at 9:10 a.m. today.

Out of the 21 Symetra Tour women who competed in the U.S. Open, only one managed to make the cut. Cindy Feng finished in a tie for 13th, and managed to beat the likes of established LPGA names such as Lydia Ko (T15) and Paula Creamer (T15). But for Feng, she’s not putting much stock into her performance.

“It does help to know that I can play at that level, but at the same time, it’s golf,” she said. “It’s just one tournament. It’s helpful, but everyone has their on-weeks and their off-weeks and fortunately, I was playing really well that week.”

Feng currently sits in third place on the Volvik Race for the Card money list, trailing only Marissa Steen and leader, Min Seo Kwak.

Feng will tee-off on No. 10 at 8:20 a.m. today.

Last year’s winner Kim Kaufman will not be featured in this year’s event. She is now playing full-time on the LPGA Tour. Kaufman won the 2013 the Island Resort Championship on a one-hole playoff against Mitsuki Katahira on the par-5 18th.

Unlike Kaufman, Katahira will be back this year, and despite last year’s strong performance, she has tempered her expectations for this weekend.

“I haven’t been playing well this year, so I try not to expect too much this week,” she said. “But I know I really like this golf course. The conditions are always good. The greens are rolling very nice. It kind of suits my eyes. It always has a good short par-4 for a birdie chance, and I think the course is very fair. I really enjoy playing here.”