HARRIS, MICH. (WFRV) – It’s an exciting weekend in Harris, Michigan at the Island Resort and Casino as 156 women golfers take the course to compete in the LPGA Epson Tour’s eleventh Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass.
Local 5’s Kaitlin Corbett gives us an inside look at why it’s such a big deal for not only golfers but the fans and community too.
The Epson Tour is often called the road to the LPGA for women golfers all over the globe. Tim Kramer, Director of Tournament Affairs talks about what goes into putting something like this on, “It starts with a great golf course and Island Resort Sweetgrass is definitely that. It’s a phenomenal track, and one of the best ones we’ll play all year. Then you start laying in volunteers and sponsors and all those folks that help make the week successful and there’s a lot that goes into it.”
Golfers from 34 countries are represented this week at the Epson Tour with the top ten players at the end of the year on the money list automatically graduating to the LPGA Tour. Kramer says that it’s quite competitive.
This tour is also family-centered, Kramer says that they wanted to make this a community event and make it affordable for people to come and watch golf, “It’s a great weekend for you to bring your son or your daughter who wants to get up close and personal with a player. And we don’t rope and stake the golf course so really you get up close to see them play and get a chance to meet some of the players.”
Fans taking in the Epson Tour have unique and unparalleled access to the golfers. Not only can they follow players from hole to hole, but they can go up and ask them for autographs after each round.
But there’s a bigger goal in mind for organizers of the tour – give the fans something to invest in and become passionate about so that they continue to follow these women as their careers progress.
“It’s 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 right down the fairway, it’s a really unique experience. You know, the Tour has always been that way, they want you to talk to them, get an autograph when they’re done playing, be up close and watch them. If you watch the LGPA, 40-50 percent of the field has come through here. It’s a long-term here, you meet them, you get to watch them, but then you take an interest in them when they’re up on the LGPA,” says Tony Mancilla, Island Resort General Manager.
There’s still time to check out the tour this weekend. Tickets are $10 and kids under 18 get in free.
As the golfers get ready to tee off Friday morning, much of it wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers.
From ball spotting to concessions, to cart driving, more than 300 volunteers cover it all to make the tournament a success. The volunteers are not only from the U.P. but across Wisconsin and the Midwest to be a part of this event. Event organizers say it wouldn’t be possible without them,
“That kind of gives you an idea about the popularity of this tournament and the appreciation that this community has for this tournament. So it certainly contributes to our local economy and that’s obviously important at The Chamber of Commerce, that we know that an event like this not only contributes to our economy but allows us to showcase the beautiful assets here,” says Vickie Micheau, Executive Director, Delta County Chamber of Commerce.
Micheau also says that with so many returning volunteers, many sign up for next year’s tournament when this one ends.
Message Behind the Tournament
The tournament is not only about the golfers getting a chance to go to the LGPA, but it’s a unique event for fans and families. The Director of Tournament Business and Affairs says that the tournament experiences are about the message that the golfers can send to some of the youngest spectators this weekend.
“Whether your son or daughter is into golf, really coming out here and seeing how young professionals go about preparing to compete, the drive, the determination, the goals that they set for themselves is applicable to any sport they’d want to be in or their professional career. Just to see how they go about doing their daily business, I think, is 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 kids under 18 get in free.