HARRIS, MICH. (WFRV) – It’s an exciting weekend in Harris, Michigan at the Island Resort and Casino as 156 female golfers take to the course to compete in the eleventh Island Resort Championship of the LPGA Epson Tour at Sweetgrass.
Local 5’s Kaitlin Corbett explains why this is so important not just to golfers, but also to fans and the community.
The Epson Tour is often called the road to the LPGA for female golfers around the world. Tournament Affairs Director Tim Kramer explains what goes into setting up something like this: “It starts with a great golf course and Island Resort Sweetgrass is definitely that. It’s a phenomenal track, and one of the best we’ll play all year. Then you start recruiting volunteers and sponsors and all those people who contribute to the success of the week and there is a lot to do.
Golfers from 34 countries are represented on the Epson Tour this week with the top ten players at the end of the year on the money list automatically advancing to the LPGA Tour. Kramer says it’s pretty competitive.
This tour is also family centric, Kramer says they wanted to make it a community event and make it affordable for people to come watch the golf, “It’s a great weekend for you to bring your son or your girl who wants to get up close and personal with a player.And we don’t cordon or stake the golf course, so you really get up close and personal to see them play and get a chance to meet some of the players.
Fans participating in the Epson Tour have unique and unparalleled access to golfers. Not only can they follow players from hole to hole, but they can step up and ask them for autographs after each round.
But there’s a bigger goal in mind for tour organizers: to give fans something to invest in and get excited about so they can keep following these women as their careers unfold.
“This is our showcase event. I mean we want people to come out and see. It’s really economical, everything on the course is $2 or less, and you can walk with the players all the way to the end of the fairway, it’s a truly unique experience. You know, the Tour has always been like that, they want you to talk to them, get an autograph when they’re done playing, be close and watch them. If you look at the LGPA, 40-50% of the field went through here. It’s a long term here, you meet them, you can watch them, but then you get interested in them when they’re on the LGPA,” says Island Resort General Manager Tony Mancilla.
There’s still time to check out the tour this weekend. Tickets are $10 and children under 18 enter free.
As golfers prepare to play Friday morning, much of this wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers.
From spotting balls to concessions to driving carts, more than 300 volunteers take care of everything to make the tournament a success. Volunteers are not just from UP but from Wisconsin and the Midwest to be part of this event. Event organizers say it wouldn’t be possible without them,
“It kind of gives you an idea of how popular this tournament is and how much appreciation this community has for this tournament. So it definitely helps our local economy and it’s obviously important to the Chamber of Commerce, that we know that an event like this not only helps our economy, but allows us to showcase the beautiful assets here,” said Vickie Micheau, General Manager, Delta County Chamber of Commerce.
Micheau also says that with so many returning volunteers, many will sign up for next year’s tournament when it ends.
Message behind the tournament
The tournament is not just for golfers lucky enough to go to the LGPA, but it is a unique event for fans and families. The Tournament Business and Affairs Director says the tournament experiences are about the message golfers can send to some of the younger spectators this weekend.
“Whether your son or daughter loves golf, really come here and see how the young professionals prepare to compete, the drive, the determination, the goals they set apply to any sport in which they would like to be or their professional career. Just to see how they go about doing their day-to-day business, I think it’s pretty unique for them to come out and watch,” says Tim Kramer.
The tournament continues through Sunday at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Michigan. Tickets are $10 and children under 18 enter free.