Ann Arbor — Last June, Sarah Hoffman was sleeping in her car at Crystal Mountain, making sure she didn’t miss her opening tee time at the Michigan Women’s Open.
More than a year later, the Saline native is preparing to play in her first LPGA event.
Hoffman earned a sponsor exemption to the inaugural Volvik Championship, scheduled for May 23-29 at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor.
“My dream has come true to play in the LPGA,” Hoffman said Monday. “I’ve been a member at Travis Pointe since I was 5. To be able to compete against the best at my home course is an absolute dream come true.”
The dream hasn’t exactly come the way it does for most aspiring golfers.
After playing at Saline High, Hoffman spent four years at Grand Valley State, where she was a two-time All-American and won 11 events. But she also had a dream to be a nurse, and when her playing days in college ended, she decided to finish her studies and move away from golf.
“I was very passionate about it,” Hoffman said of her nursing career. “I wanted to do something I was passionate about and I thought I owed it to Grand Valley to finish my nursing degree. It was something I really wanted to do.”
The entire time, however, the pull of the golf course was there.
Hoffman played amateur events, and even though she had nearly no time to practice, she posted her share of impressive scores.
It all led her to sleeping in the car on the eve of last June’s Michigan Open after three straight days of overnight shifts. It hardly seemed to matter as she carded an opening-round 66 on her way to a tie for eighth place.
By February, Hoffman made the decision — she was going to pursue her ultimate dream of being a professional golfer.
“I realized more and more, working those night shifts, that I wanted to be at the golf course more and more,” Hoffman said. “I was playing amateur events and was doing pretty well, but it was frustrating with the lack of time I could put into golf and I wanted to do that full time.
“I put this plan together of what I thought was gonna happen and quit my job in February and moved to Florida. The sequence of events that happened since then has been amazing.”
Amazing is one way to put it.
Less than two weeks after Hoffman headed to Windemere, Fla., to live with her great aunt, she was playing at a local Orlando course. She just happened to be playing behind a group that included LPGA Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak and Volvik president Don Shin.
Shin noticed the lone golfer behind his group and noted she had an impressive swing. At the turn, Pak had to leave, and Shin invited Hoffman to join their group. After talking, the connection was made that Hoffman was an aspiring golfer and Shin was impressed.
By the end of February, Hoffman got a last-minute spot in the IOA Championship, the first event in the Symetra Tour season. The Symetra Tour is the LPGA’s developmental tour, and without playing a practice round, Hoffman shot 74-77, just missing the cut.
Since then, she’s been playing on minor tours in Florida and preparing to be back at her home course at the end of next month.
“The same month I quit my job I was playing a Symetra Tour event in California,” Hoffman said. “And then to receive the sponsor exemption is an absolute dream come true.”
Hoffman will be teeing it up with what is already shaping up to be a solid field. The first list of commitments includes 12 of the top 15 ranked players in the world.
Noteworthy names such as Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Christi Kerr, Suzanne Peterson and Lydia Ko already are committed while the field will continue to evolve until the week of the tournament.
“We’ll have a great field,” tournament director Keith Karbo said. “We’re the only new LPGA tournament on the schedule. It’s an Olympic qualifying tournament and the ladies have a chance to earn points for the world rankings. We’re really excited about that.”
When: May 23-29, Travis Pointe Country Club, Ann Arbor
TV: The Golf Channel — 7-9 p.m. May 26-27; 3-6 p.m. May 28-29
Tickets: Daily passes $20-$40, weeklong passes $60-$120
Details: volviklpga.com or (734) 707-0789
Notable: Saturday’s round will be an “Orange Out for ChadTough!” with $10 from the sale of each $30 ticket going to The ChadTough Foundation. Tickets include grounds pass, Orange Out for ChadTough! T-shirt and choice of a sleeve of Volvik golf balls, orange Volvik baseball cap or orange tee holder. ... An amateur pre-qualifier is May 19 at Leslie Park Golf Course in Ann Arbor. The top two golfers earn a spot in the Monday local qualifying tournament May 23 at Eagle Crest Golf Club. The top two from that event earn a spot in the LPGA field.
Field: The final list will be announced May 23. Some notable names committed — Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Christi Kerr, Suzanne Peterson and No. 1 Lydia Ko.