Volvik crowd sings support for Ann Arbor native Song
Ann Arbor – As Jennifer Song poured in seven birdies in her first round at the Volvik Championship on Thursday, she said she heard a few chants of “Go Blue” from the gallery.
That might seem a bit odd for a player that attended Southern Cal, but for the second-year tournament played just south of Michigan Stadium at Travis Pointe Country Club, Song is as close as a hometown connection there is. That’s because the seventh-year pro was born in Ann Arbor and spent several years in the area as her father worked on his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.
While Song now lives in Orlando, Florida, getting back to the place she was born still means a lot to her, enough that she doesn’t mind being associated with the Wolverines.
“I'm actually a Trojan,” she said. “But I would get a couple people saying ‘Go Blue’ when I'm playing out here, so it's actually pretty nice.”
The support seemed to help as Song carded a 4-under 68 to sit one shot off the lead by the end of the morning rounds.
She brushed off a bogey on No. 7 – her 16th hole of the day – to drain a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to close out her round in fine fashion.
“It's definitely a confidence boost,” Song said of the finishing birdie. “I think it will help going into the second round tomorrow.
“I made a bunch of birdies out there. I think I made seven. But a couple of hiccups, I missed some short putts out there. But other than that, my round went pretty well.”
Song had an accomplished amateur career, winning both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in 2009, becoming the second player ever to win both in the same year.
And she entered 2017 coming off the best season of her career in 2016, earning a third-place finish at the CME Group Tour Championship and finishing a career-best 46th on the money list with earnings of $390,513.
“I think my game is better than last year and my condition's good and I'm rolling it well,” Song said. “So hopefully I'll see some good results.”
In last year’s inaugural Volvik Championship, Song ended in a tie for 16th, her second-best finish of the season. She had a chance then to visit her old elementary school – Angell Elementary in Ann Arbor – but hasn’t been able to get out as much on this trip.
“I've actually been a couch potato,” Song joked. “After the round I will just go back and take a shower and just rest in my bed. I'm pretty boring.”
Instead her focus will be on putting together another solid round on Friday and seeing where it goes from there.
“I really like this golf course,” she said. “This year it rained a lot so the greens are definitely softer so I could really attack the pin when I want to. … There are great golfers out here so I'm sure you're going to see a lot of low numbers. We'll just see.”
Being a rookie on Tour can be tough for some young golfers, but for 18-year-old Nelly Korda, there’s the benefit of playing at the same time as her big sister, Jessica.
They’re both in the field this this week and being together has worked well so far for Nelly, who is one shot off the lead after shooting a 6-under 66. Jessica shot an even-par 72 in the first round.
Jessica — the 24-year-old who has four career victories — played in the morning on Thursday while Nelly didn’t play until the afternoon. But the opposite schedules hasn’t caused any issues.
“It's always fun rooming with her,” Nelly Korda said. “We're on opposite ends. I did wake up this morning when she was walking out of the hotel room, but other than that, she's always great.”
A year ago when Ariya Jutanugarn won the inaugural Volvik Championship, it was her third straight win on the LPGA Tour. Entering this year’s event, the LPGA has yet to have a multiple winner this season. This is the 12th event of the year and the last time the Tour had to go past the 10th week to get a repeat winner came in 1991 when it went 16 weeks.
… One of the more interesting sights of the day — golfer Brooke Pancake’s bag bearing the name of one her top sponsors — Waffle House.