GRAND RAPIDS, MI - It’s been 14 years since the LPGA returned to Michigan, but Michigan in the summertime feels natural to Morgan Pressel, like the Florida native is returning home.
Throughout her childhood, Pressel would return to Michigan to spend the summer with her grandparents where she learned the game. She grew up golfing in the summertime on the Powerbilt Junior Golf Tour – today known as the Meijer Junior Golf Tour – and feels right at home this week at the Meijer LPGA Classic Presented by Kraft in Grand Rapids.
She’s played in Toledo, Ohio – a short drive from her family in Detroit – but her husband, Andy, who went to Michigan State, is running the event for Octagon Sports this week and they’ll both have family members out in numbers to support the tournament.
“Being back here in Michigan for the first time as a pro for me is really cool,” she said.
The last time either the LPGA or PGA Tour stopped in Michigan was in 2009 when the PGA Tour last hosted the Buick Open. The LPGA’s return brings an incredibly strong field with nine of the top-10 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in attendance.
“I think that says a lot about Meijer and it says a lot about the LPGA,” Pressel said. “People want to come and we’re very excited to have a new tournament here. I think the way that the city has embraced the LPGA thus far, not even having played a tournament round, I think this tournament will be around for a long time. I know the support from the community so far has been amazing and I have no doubt it will continue.”
In addition to a community hungry for professional golf, the LPGA’s found a tree-lined classic championship test in Blythefield Country Club. As host of the 1961 Western Open and 2005 Western Junior, the historical layout has a track record of proven champions with Arnold Palmer and Rickie Fowler listed as the champion on the trophies of those two events, respectively.
“It’s an old school, old style course. I think it’s set up to make some birdies so you have to definitely get after it,” Pressel said. “But it’s tree lined and the rough is thick, so if you don’t put your driver in the fairway you’re not going to have a whole lot of opportunities to make birdies. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge out here this week is getting the ball in play and then after that firing right at the pins and making some birdies.”
It’s that part of the game that Pressel – the youngest major champion in LPGA history – feels like has held her back from better results this season. She’s had two top-10s and is 30th on the money list but feels like the driver’s kept her from her third career victory and contending in more tournaments. She’s hitting it the furthest she’s hit it off the tee since 2006 – and seven yards per drive farther than 2013 – but the accuracy hasn’t followed. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of fairways – 119th on tour – is a tough statistic to deal with for a player that’s been in the top-10 in driving accuracy and above 75 percent for multiple years of her career.
“It has kind of been my Achilles Heel lately, which is hard as I’ve always been a great driver of the golf ball in terms of accuracy. I picked up quite a bit of distance, but my accuracy hasn’t been right where I need it to be. It’s something that I work on every day, and I feel like I’m plugging along and getting closer.”
Whether that translates on the course this week or not, one thing’s assured about the LPGA’s return to Michigan.
“It’s going to be one heck of a party this week,” she said.