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Amateur phenom from Japan is MSU student

Dennis Grall photo Yurika Tanida, a golfer at Michigan State University, practices on the range at Sweetgrass Golf Club Tuesday. The native of Yokohama, Japan is playing in the Symetra Tour’s Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass.

HARRIS — Yurika Tanida, a native of Yokohama, Japan, is a proud Spartan golfer at Michigan State University.

She will be wearing her MSU apparel this weekend when she plays in the ninth annual Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass. Tanida is one of two amateur exemptions in the record 156-player field, joining Pratima Sherpa of Nepal.

Tanida helped Michigan State win the Big Ten golf championship as a freshman in 2017-18, when she had a 75.75 scoring average. She had three straight 75s as the Spartans won that title.

She came to East Lansing after spending the previous year at Morningside Academy, Fla. That summer she won the Midwest Collegiate Series at Forest Akers West and teamed with Katie Sharp to win the Golf Association of Michigan Four-Ball at Battle Creek Country Club.

Now she will make her debut in a professional golf tournament, joining several former Spartans who have played in this event, including Carley Saint Onge of Marquette as an amateur exemption.

Tanida said she was recruited by the Spartans and several other schools, adding MSU got the nod because the golfers “were the most important thing for me. I need to feel like I’m at home, and the best fit for me was MSU.”

Despite her attachment to Japan and Florida, she has found Michigan to be her new home. In fact, if she would win the lottery, her first purchase would be a big house in northern Michigan. Her favorite golf club would be close, Bay Harbor Golf Club in Petoskey.

A psychology major, Tanida said “I feel more comfortable on the campus, the golf course. My mom is a mental trainer. Golf is a very tough sport and the mental part is very important.”

Like just about everyone playing in this weekend’s tournament, her goal is to play on the LPGA Tour. She figures this appearance “will be very helpful to improve my golf game.”

Her second year was an improvement from her rookie campaign because she had a better feel for the golf courses and was more comfortable studying. “I can more focus on my golf game,” she said. “Coach and I are working mainly on my short game and the mental part.”

Tanida maintains a positive attitude and “thinks about other fun stuff. I have a tendancy to have higher expectations for myself. I like to have my goals set before a round,” she said.

She quickly became close with former teammate Sarah Burnham. “She had a great personality and her golf game was very solid. Her ball striking was very good, and I liked her mental part. She knows how to fix it, and her short game was incredible.

“She became a friend and she helped me for my golf game. I asked her a lot about the mental part.”

Tanida watched Burnham play in the recent LPGA Meijers Classic in East Lansing. That event also gave her a chance to follow her favorite pro golfer, Sakura Yokomine. “I got a putting lesson from her,” said Tanida.

Golf is different with the Spartans than it was in Japan. “In Japan I had a coach that said I can’t talk with players on the course and not to smile, just focus on golf.

“I came to the U.S. and everyone was talking and having fun. (Now) I feel better and more free. I came to love golf more.”

She has enjoyed meeting people and other cultures because of golf. “That makes my life better,” she said.

Tanida is using this opportunity to see how professionals practice before and after rounds and how they attack the golf course. “I’m curious how I’m going to score with the Symetra players. Hopefully I’m going to learn a lot,” she said.

She has a simple goal this weekend. “I like to make the cut,” she said, which means being in the top 60 after two days, plus ties. She said that means she will have “to hit to the right spot and see where the good spots to miss (shots) or where to go for birdies. I’ll try to be pretty smart.”

Her caddy will be Andy Wada, who lives in Orlando and is a commentator for the Golf Channel.

The tournament starts at 7:30 a.m. Friday with threesomes off the first and 10th tees. The cut will be made after Saturday’s round. Entry fee is $10 for all three days, with kids free.

Ticket sales benefit the YMCA of Delta County.

The last four Island Resort winners are now members of the LPGA Tour, Ruixin Liu, Emma Talley, Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong and Dani Holmqvist.

The champion will receive $30,000 from the $200,000 purse. The top two finishers will qualify to play in the Evian Championship in France, one of the five LPGA major tournaments.

Players from 36 countries and 27 states comprise the field, with 79 U.S. players the largest contingent. Tanida will be joined by MSU alum Allysa Ferrell along with Grand Valley State golfer Sarah Hoffman of Saline and Samantha Troyanovich of Grosse Pointe.

The only Wisconsin representative is Casey Danielson, a four-time high school state champion from Osceola. Her sister, Lindsey, won the WIAA state title the previous four years before playing at Wisconsin and her brother Charlie won two WIAA state titles.

Charlie Danielson, a former University of Illinois golfer, made the cut at the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach last week and tied for 58th at 289. He also played in the 2016 Open but missed the cut.

Jillian Hollis took over the money lead in the Volvik Race For The Cup by winning the Forsyth Classic last week in Decatur, Ill. Hollis, who has won $84,327, is one of eight players in the top 10 who are here this week. The top 10 finishers in the Volvik Cup advance to the LPGA Tour next year.

There are 44 first-year Symetra players in the field this weekend.

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