By Dennis Grall
For the Daily Press
HARRIS - The future of the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass will be decided later, but this weekend's Symetra Tour event is crucial to the process.
The third annual event begins at 7:30 a.m. Friday, with 142 professionals and two amateur exemptions competing at Sweetgrass Golf Club. Tickets are $10 and cover all three rounds and free parking is available, with eight spectator bleacher sections available.
The Symetra Tour - Road to the LPGA is the official development tour of the LPGA and is in its 33rd year of operation. The top 10 money winners annually advance to the LPGA Tour.
All proceeds go to the YMCA Strong Kids program, Wounded Warriors Association, Salvation Army and Menominee County Animal Shelter.
It is a win-win situation for the Upper Peninsula, noted co-director Tony Mancilla.
"This is our third year. The tournament will run itself. It runs like clock work," he said, noting the integral support of 300 volunteers and sponsorship of numerous area businesses.
"We really need a big crowd. The (Hannahville) tribal council is really invested in this tournament. It is important they see excitement in the area. They want to host the tournament and the tribal council sees it as a worthy event."
A decision on hosting future events will be made within the next month, but Mancilla said "we like the Symetra Tour. We like the players, it fits our budget. We would like to stay with them. My hopes are to stay with the Symetra Tour, but it really comes down to if the public wants to support it."
Tourney officials, at Sweetgrass and the Tour, have been pleased with the support the first two years and every player who is asked about the event offers huge raves for the course conditions, support of Sweetgrass and tribal officials, and area residents.
"This is my favorite tournament," third-year Sweetgrass entrant Jessi Gebhardt said. "They treat us like queens. They make sure we are catered to, and this is a beautiful part of the country. You feel like you are getting away, and everyone is so friendly."
Mancilla said the success of this tournament could also help spur more events.
"I want to get a marquee event here," he said, indicating a U.S. Amateur championship as an excellent choice. "We want to show we can run that kind of an event."