Emmie Pietila, a University of Tennessee golfer, led at the end of Monday at the 22nd Michigan PGA Women’s Open. The event is held at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville.
“I just wanted to come up here and have fun,” she said after shooting a personal-best 8-under 64. “We come up every year, stay in a motor home here and it’s a fun atmosphere here,” she said. “I think I was just relaxed. The greens were perfect. It was perfect scoring conditions and I played well.”
The 64 on the Mountain-Ridge course, her personal best by five shots over a pair of 69s she shot in the recent NCAA Regionals, gave her a two-shot lead on another amateur with a personal best – 66-shooting Sarah Hoffman of Saline, a former Grand Valley State golfer and nurse at University of Michigan Hospital.
This is the second straight year that an amateur set a scorching pace. A year ago Midland’s Kimberly Dinh shot the tournament and course record 62 in the first round. An amateur has won once in the previous 21 Opens – Kentwood’s Breanne Hall in 2003.
The Pietila family includes eight children, including three of five girls playing in the Michigan Women’s Open Championship this week – Emmie, Hannah, both at the Tennessee, and Annie, who will be a freshman in high school. Hannah shot even-par 72, and Annie shot 89.
“It’s like a family vacation, this tournament,” Emmie said.
Hoffman, 25, practices and plays as much as possible around nursing shifts, but the plan at this point remains to work a few years, save up money and try LPGA Tour Qualifying School.
“I surprised myself a little because I haven’t been in a tournament in a while,” she said. “But I know I can do it. I hit it great. My mother keeps track and she said besides the seven birdies I had seven other tap-ins. It was good round, and now I know I get to sleep in tomorrow. I work the night shift. This is not my schedule.”
Kendall Martindale of Jefferson City, Tenn., a recent Vanderbilt University graduate playing in her first professional event with eyes on LPGA Qualifying this fall, shot 67 and was the low pro in the open tournament.
“I was supposed to be in Europe right now, but my trip got derailed and my mom suggested we take a vacation in Michigan and play some golf,” she said. “Here we are, and it’s my first professional round and it went great. I enjoyed the golf course.”
Gabrielle Yurik, a Michigan State University golfer from Oakland Township, and Lauren Grogan, a University of Michigan golfer from Columbus, Ohio, were among five golfers who shot 69. The others were pros Ally McDonald of Fulton, Miss., Casey Kennedy of Venice, Fla., and Tania Tare of Miami, Fla.
Defending champion Becca Huffer of Littleton, Colo., was among five golfers who shot 70. She is among the many Symetra Tour players in the field, who head on to Tullymore Golf Resort in Stanwood for the Tullymore Classic stop Friday through Sunday.
Meanwhile, the 54-hole, $42,000 state championship at Crystal Mountain continues through Wednesday. A cut will be made after Tuesday’s second round to the low 70 scorers and ties.
First-round scores and pairings (by score) for Tuesday can be found at www.michiganpgagolf.com. Be sure to check out the Michigan PGA on Facebook for a photo gallery and more.