June 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm

LPGA star Morgan Pressel excited about tour's return to Michigan

Morgan Pressel is the niece of tennis star and Grosse Pointe native Aaron Krickstein while her mother, Kathy, was a Big Ten tennis champion at the University of Michigan. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

Belmont, Mich. — Morgan Pressel was born and raised in Florida, but as she has said, she is a Midwestern girl at heart.

Much of that feeling was fostered through the summers of her youth spending time with family in the Detroit area and picking up the game of golf. It led to playing in junior events all over the state before she qualified for the 2001 U.S. Women’s Open at the age of 12.

But as a professional, the major championship winner has never teed it up in Michigan — the closest has always been the Jamie Farr Classic near Toledo. However, that is all about to change as the LPGA returns to the state with the Meijer LPGA Classic, Aug. 7-10 at Blythefield Country Club just north of Grand Rapids.

It is the first time the tour has had a regular stop in Michigan since the Oldsmobile Classic ended its nine-year run at Walnut Hills in East Lansing in 2000.

Pressel was on hand with fellow tour pro Nicole Castrale on Tuesday to celebrate the inaugural event.

“I’m definitely looking forward to coming here,” Pressel said. “It’s a special place to come back to Michigan. I learned to play golf here in Michigan, every summer really. … I grew up playing golf in the whole area and it is very special to me and hopefully I will be embraced by the community as a ‘somewhat local.’ ”

Pressel is the niece of tennis star and Grosse Pointe native Aaron Krickstein while her mother, Kathy, was a Big Ten tennis champion at the University of Michigan. The area connections don’t end there, however.

“My family, we bleed maize and blue,” Pressel said, “even though I married a Spartan.”

Her husband, Andy Bush, is a sports marketing executive who went to Michigan State and whose family also hails from the state. But Pressel insists their only competition comes on the golf course in the few chances they get to play together.

Instead, Pressel is usually busy honing her game, one she hopes will be in winning form by next week at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst (N.C.), a week after the men decide their national champion.

“Everything that I have been working on my game right now has been to peak next week,” said Pressel, who has one major title to her credit with a victory in the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship. “I still have a little to work on, but you don’t want to peak too early, so I want to peak next week and be ready to go.”

Pressel and her fellow LPGA members are back in Michigan at a time the tour is seeing unprecedented growth. Up from just 23 events four years ago, the LPGA now has 32 tournaments and will be seen with more than 350 hours of television coverage, the most in the tour’s history.

There have been huge leaps in television ratings with the last seven consecutive events seeing double-digit increases from the year before. And social media is also booming with Facebook traffic up 155 percent from last year and Instagram up 238 percent.

“This is not a minor-league event,” said Kraig Kann, chief communications director of LPGA. “This is big-time stuff. These are the best players teeing it up on the planet that are coming to Grand Rapids.”

The Meijer LPGA Classic is a 72-hole event with a full field of 144 players and tickets are now on sale at meijerlpgaclassic.com.

And whether or not Pressel manages to hoist a trophy on the final day, she will be glad she’s playing again in her “second” home.

“It’s really neat that we get to come back,” she said. “I’m grateful for Meijer for having us here in early August. It will be great.”