Pressel excited to play Meijer LPGA Classic next month

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Belmont, Mich. — On Sunday evening, Morgan Pressel was in Prattville, Ala., coming up one stroke from forcing a playoff at the Yokohama Tire Classic.

It was, in her words, the best she had played all season, carding a 13-under 275 to tie for second behind first-time champion Ariya Jutanugarn.

Pressel, however, wasn’t fretting over coming close to her first LPGA Tour win since 2008. Instead, she had to get back to a place that has meant so much to her and to promote a tournament that is as important to her as any.

So on Monday morning, Pressel was at Blythefield Country Club just north of Grand Rapids promoting the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, the third-year event Pressel said is becoming a “can’t-miss stop” on the Tour.

“There are a few events, beyond the majors, on our schedule that mean more to me than the others and this is definitely one of them,” Pressel said. “So to win here would be incredible. This is somewhat of a home game for me, which is nice, family and friends come to watch.”

Pressel spent many summers growing up and playing golf in Michigan. She is the niece of tennis star and Grosse Pointe native Aaron Krickstein, while her mother, Kathy, was a Big Ten tennis champion at Michigan.

Those summers led to a stellar amateur career that included qualifying for the U.S. Open at the age of 12, finishing second at the U.S. Open as an amateur in 2005 before winning the U.S. Amateur at age 17. She then turned pro and became the youngest major champion in LPGA history when she captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2007 at the age of 18 years 10 months 9 days.

Now one of the biggest names in golf with five appearances on the U.S. Solheim Cup team and career earnings approaching $7 million, Pressel is excited to promote the Meijer LPGA Classic, so much so she had quite the itinerary to get to Blythefield by Monday morning.

“I missed my flight to Grand Rapids and had to catch the last flight to Detroit, which was then delayed, and then came over from Detroit early this morning,” Pressel said. “I didn’t want to miss it. It was not an option. I was gonna make it no matter what.”

With a $2 million purse, the event has quickly gained popularity on Tour, and Pressel will be joined in the field by good friend Paula Creamer. A full field won’t be announced until the week of the tournament, but defending champion Lexi Thompson is also a good bet to participate.

Pressel said after the first year in 2014, word spread quickly around the Tour about the tournament and Grand Rapids.

“I had not really experienced Grand Rapids until I came here a couple of years ago, and I was incredibly surprised and impressed,” Pressel said. “I don’t know that I knew what to expect but I was definitely blown away by the incredible city and the culture and everything around Grand Rapids.

“I think the girls who didn’t come the first year because they weren’t really sure — they wanted to kind of gauge things — and they heard about it. They heard, wow, that was such an incredible event. The golf course was great, the community is wonderful. … A lot of things go into players determining their schedules, but now it’s becoming a can’t-miss event.”

Pressel hopes by the time the tournament begins June 16, her game continues to build, too.

The second-place finish in Alabama was her best this season, and her first top-five since last year’s U.S. Open.

“Right now I feel completely different than I did a week ago,” Pressel said, crediting some tips from a friend for straightening out her game. “I do feel like I’m on the right track and I mean I have been putting fairly well but I had been hitting it everywhere and I mean I hit perfect drives all day on Sunday. I haven’t done that in a long time.”

The Meijer LPGA Classic will be the only chance for fans to see Pressel in person. She said she will not be playing the Volvik Championship, the first-year event from May 23-29 at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor.

“It just doesn’t work this year, unfortunately,” she said.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

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Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give

Course: Blythefield Country Club; Belmont, Mich.

Schedule: June 16-19

TV: Golf Channel — 2:30-5:30 June 16-17, 2-5 p.m. June 18-19

Tickets: $10 daily general admission, $25 week general admission, children 17-under free with a ticketed adult; available at meijerLPGAclassic.com or any Meijer stores.

Outlook: Simply Give helps restock shelves of food pantries throughout the Midwest. The tournament has raised more than $1.3 million for Simply Give its first two years. … On June 19, all fathers who attend the tournament with a child will receive free admission as part of Father’s Day. … There also will be a Father’s Day Brunch with celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson from 10-noon on June 19. Tickets are $25. … The Meijer LPGA Kid’s Center will feature a Father’s Day card-making station June 15-19.