Island Resort Championship 2021 Preview
Michigan’s first professional golf tournament in 2021 is the Island Resort Championship in the Upper Peninsula. A Symetra Tour event, it takes place at Sweetgrass Golf Club at the Island Resort Casino & Resort from June 11 – 13.
The field consists of 144 players competing for a purse of $200,000. The Island Resort Championship is a 54 hole stroke play event, with a cut to low 60 and ties after 36 holes. The winner takes home $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 Symetra Tour. In seven starts this season, Iacobelli has made three cuts with a season-best finish of tied for sixth at the Symetra 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.
Grand Valley State Grad Hoffman In Field
In the field is Sarah Hoffman (Saline, Michigan), a Grand Valley State University graduate. This past year, Hoffman has been working as a nurse amid the COVID-19 pandemic 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 76th 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 Symetra Tour have made the trek to Menominee County, as 30 rookies are in the field and eager for the ninth event of the Symetra Tour season.
Among them is Kelly Whaley (Palm Beach Gardens, Florida), making her fifth start as a professional on the Symetra 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 Symetra 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 Symetra 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.”
Island Resort Championship Featured Groups
DanielaIacobelli, Roberta Liti, Savannah Vilaubi (No. 1 tee, 1:04 p.m.)
The 2019 Island Resort Championship defending champion, Daniela Iacobelli (Melbourne, Florida), was inducted into the Florida Institute of Technology Hall of Fame in 2014. She has claimed 25 career top-10 finishes, two of which came earlier this year at the Symetra Classic and Garden City Charity Classic. The former Symetra Tour graduate in 2012 and 2015 is a three-time champion (2012 Symetra Tour Championship, 2015 Tullymore Classic and the 2019 Island Resort Championship).
Allie White (Lancaster, Ohio) joins the trio coming into the week after competing in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open. The University of North Carolina alumna was a 2011 ACC Team Championship winner and NGCA Academic All-American. This season, White has made three cuts in six starts and has a season-best finish of T10 at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic.
Rounding out the first featured group is Savannah Vilaubi (Downey, California) who won the 27th CoBank Colorado Women’s Open last week. She went into Denver after a T2 finish at the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship. Last year, Vilaubi’s made even cuts in eight starts with two top-10 finishes. Outside of the Symetra Tour, Vilaubi has won the 2016 Texas Women’s Open, as well as, multiple events on the Cactus Tour. This week she is looking to claim her first win on the Road to the LPGA.
Cindy Ha, Shasta Averyhardt, Sarah Hoffman (No. 10 tee, 7:52 a.m.)
Cindy Ha (Demarest, New Jersey), medalist at the 2014 Rainbow Wahine Invitational for Vanderbilt University, kicks off the second featured group in Harris, Mich. She spent two years with the Commodores and was named to the 2015 All-SEC Freshman Team. Two years ago, she was defeated by Daniela Iacobelli in a one-hole playoff at the Island Resort Championship. While she did not take home the trophy, she did earn an exemption into the 2019 Amundi Evian Championship for her first LPGA Tour start.
Shasta Averyhardt (Flint, Michigan) is competing in her home state this week. The Jackson State University alumna owns three career top-10 performances on the Symetra Tour. Last year, Averyhardt ended the season fifth in average driving distance (277 yards). This week is Averyhardt’s fifth start of the season and third appearance at Sweetgrass Golf Club.
Sarah Hoffman (Saline, Michigan) completes the second featured group and is no stranger to Michigan. She competed at Grand Valley State University where she was a three-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) Division II All-American. In 2020, she made five cuts in 8 starts. 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.
Sarah White, Samantha Troyanovich, Kaitlyn Papp (No. 10 tee, 1:59 p.m.)
Sarah White (Grand Rapids, Michigan) gained membership last season after winning the 2020 Founders Tribute over Sophia Popov. A graduate of Texas State University, White won the 2018 Spring Lake Invitational in Spring Lake, Mich., at Spring Lake Country Club and competed in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship that same year. Last season, she followed her first Symetra Tour win with a top-10 finish at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort and Spa.
Also competing in her home-state this week is Samantha Troyanovich (Grosse Pointe, Michigan). As an amateur she won the 2006 Michigan Junior Girls Amateur Championship and the 2007 Michigan Junior Girls PGA Championship. Troyanovich went on to become a two-time member of the winning NCAA Women’s Golf National Championship team (2009, 2010) for Tulane University.
Last week, Kaitlyn Papp (Austin, Texas) made her professional debut at the U.S. Women’s Open. Starting Friday, she will continue in her career thanks to a sponsor invite from Island Resort. Papp competed for the University of Texas Longhorns where she was named not only Big-12 Freshman of the Year, but also 2018 Player of the Year. The three-time Arnold Palmer Cup team member competed in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, as well as named a WGCA All-American (2018 Second Team, 2019 First Team, 2020 First Team).