Playing in pure Michigan suits LPGA golfers just fine

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe, now an analyst for Fox Sports Detroit, keeps an eye on his ball after hitting a tee shot during the pro-am for the LPGA Volvik Championship in Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor — While the PGA Tour hasn’t had a regular stop in Michigan since the Buick Open was last played in 2009, the LGPA Tour is becoming a frequent visitor to the Great Lakes state.

The second annual Volvik Championship begins today at Travis Pointe Country Club, one of two LPGA tournaments in the state. The Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids is preparing to host its fourth event in June.

And the Marathon Classic has been played just south of the border in Sylvania, Ohio, for 31 of the past 33 years.

Needless to say, the area is a favorite of many of the tour’s players.

“I think it’s one of the most underrated states when it comes to golf,” said Christina Kim, who finished second in last year’s inaugural Volvik Championship. “I haven’t been very far here in the state, but I’ve been throughout bits and places throughout the southern part of the state and I think that it’s absolutely beautiful.

“There’s some fantastic golf courses.

“I love tree-lined golf courses, you’ve got elevation changes. You’ve got tons of water obviously with the Great Lakes being so close by.

But I think it’s one of the most underrated places in our country I think when it comes to golf. There are just some sick golf courses out here.”

Lexi Thompson won two years ago in Grand Rapids and while she loves the courses the tour plays on, she also appreciates the fans.

“They’re just great setups,” Thompson said. “I love the Meijer golf course, but also here last year was the first year for this event and it was just a very well-run event and I was happy to come here. It’s a big golf state, people love golf here, and hopefully we’ll get a lot more fans out here following us this week and get some good weather.”

Not only has Michigan golf grown on the players, but in two short years the Ann Arbor area also has become one of their preferred stops.

“I’ve always held Ann Arbor very near and dear to my heart,” Kim said. “I played a Symetra Tour event out here back in the day and I remember losing to Lorena Ochoa because I was 18 and thought I could hit driver off the deck on the 72nd hole over water, and learned I couldn’t. This is just such a wonderful place to be, so I’m just really stoked.”

Added Thompson, “I love it here. We only come here, Michigan, twice a year, but I do love it here, it’s beautiful. And this tournament gets great support, so hopefully it will be here for many years to come.”

Stars come out

It was pro-am day on Wednesday and for the second straight year, Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist layed in a group that included Paula Creamer, who played with Nyquist’s foursome on the back nine. They were joined on the front nine by Jessica Korda.

Nyquist’s teammate Justin Abdelkader also played. The former Michigan State standout was in a group that included WJR personality Frank Beckmann, Juli Inkster and Mariajo Uribe.

Other notable names who played included former Piston and Michigan State Spartan Greg Kelser as well as former Tiger and current Fox Sports Detroit analyst Craig Monroe.

Volvik Championship

When: Thursday-Sunday

Where: Travis Pointe Country Club, Ann Arbor

TV: Golf Channel – Thursday and Friday, 7-9 p.m. (taped); Saturday and Sunday, 3-6 p.m. (live)

Purse: $1.3 million

Defending champion: Ariya Jutanugarn