Recap of the LPGA Island Resort Championship
ESCANABA — This past weekend marked the 10th year of the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass, where women from across the world met on the course to compete for the $200,000 purse and an automatic exemption into The Evian Champion in France as part of the 2021 LPGA Major. If you are unfamiliar with the Symetra Tour, it is the official qualifying tour of the LPGA, and former Symetra Tour competitors have won more than 435 LPGA titles.
Since the first Island Resort Championship players set foot on the pristine green tucked along the Upper Peninsula woods, the Delta Chamber of Commerce has facilitated the more than 250 volunteers and 3,300 volunteer hours needed to help make the three-day tournament a success. As a person with little to no golf experience and a new hire to the Delta Chamber of Commerce, this was the first year I attended the event. But, here are some reasons why I will attend every year from now.
First, the community of volunteers were undoubtedly upbeat and enjoyable to be around. Some have been marking their calendar every year for this event, traveling as far as Traverse City and Milwaukee to volunteer. Terry Bennett, Karen December, Jane Gertz, and twin sister Jean Gertz have traveled from Big Bay every year to volunteer as cart drivers. While they picked up their free round of golf at Sweetgrass, t-shirts, and meal voucher at the Delta Chamber volunteer tent, I asked what kept them coming back every year. “Working with the people and watching these girls compete,” said Jean, “Plus, they treat us pretty good!”
Alongside working with the volunteers, I enjoyed the many tasks I had over the weekend. Might I remind you I am a rookie to the game of golf, so when I was assigned to the scoring tent, sheer panic came over me. Yet, within 15 minutes, I was verifying scores over the radio like I had been playing golf all my life. The next job was over at the leaderboard on the 18th hole, where I got to watch the pros take one last putt before heading into the clubhouse. My favorite job of the weekend was shuttle driving the players from holes one and two during the championship round.
Some players would hop on the cart, quiet and focused, but would always thank me for the lift when we arrive at the next tee. Others were chattier, using the time to decompress before their next chance to make it on the leaderboard. Some would ask about how much snow we would get in the winter, others would ask if I was from the area, and I only received compliments on how beautiful the course was. I was told I needed to start golfing multiple times, and every time I was warned that it could also be a frustrating sport.
All players did have one thing in common; they were all kind and gracious. Pro-player Ingrid Gutierrez Nunez of Mexico did not hesitate to make Paislee Frappier’s day by giving her a signed ball after hearing the 5-year-old from Gladstone cheering for her near the green. Personally, the weekend had very little to do with golf but everything to do with the people.
I understand now why the Delta Chamber of Commerce looks forward to seeing new and returning volunteers and working alongside the Hannahville Indian Community and tournament directors and sponsors to make this event a success. I look forward to next year’s tournament, and maybe by then, I will have taken the players’ advice and know how to swing a club or two.
If you have yet to see the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass, I would highly suggest coming out for the day, even if golf is not necessarily your forte. To gain more appreciation and get behind the scenes of the event, consider volunteering next year. Just check in with the Chamber next spring, and we will be happy to sign you up.
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Baylie McDade is Delta County Chamber of Commerce communications officer