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Storylines for 4th FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship

FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship

Battle Creek Country Club

Battle Creek, Michigan 

July 24

Storylines

BATTLE CREEK, Michigan, July 24, 2017 - The Symetra Tour, the official qualifying Tour of the LPGA, returns to Battle Creek Country Club for the fourth annual FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship. First-round play begins on Friday, July 28 and the final-round is slated for Sunday, July 30. This is the 15th tournament of the season and the third in the state of Michigan (Island Resort Championship in Harris and Tullymore Classic in Canadian Lakes).

Play will begin at 7:30 a.m. all three days of the tournament. There will be a cut to the low 60 and ties 

following Saturday’s second-round. 

The field of 144 players from the United States and 28 countries around the globe will compete for a $100,000 total tournament purse. The winner will earn $15,000 and continue to climb the Volvik Race for the Card money list. With only eight tournaments left in the season, players are jockeying for position inside the top 10. The top 10 money earners by years end (Symetra Tour Championship, October 5-8) will receive LPGA Tour cards for the 2018. 

The gap closed last week between those on the cusp and those inside the top 10. No. 11 Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) is now just $2,627 shy of No. 10 Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador). Based on the $15,000 winner’s payout, anyone between 11 and 19 could move inside the top 10 with a win this weekend.

The Tour will head to Milwaukee, Wisconsin next week to complete a three-week stretch with the PHC 

Classic at Brown Deer Park. Players will get a three-week break in the month of August and then the season wraps with six straight weeks of tournaments. 

Last year, Laura Gonzalez Escallon was magnificent with rounds of 65-64 and then was named the winner after rain washed away the final round. Gonzalez Escallon and Ally McDonald, who finished second, were awarded spots in The Evian Championship and both went onto make the cut in the LPGA major. This year, the U.S. qualifier for The Evian Championship is next week in Milwaukee. Two years ago, Madeleine Sheils won in Battle Creek with three rounds in the 60’s and Min Seo Kwak won the inaugural event in 2014 with a final-round 65. Sheils, who has played primarily on the LPGA over the last three months, is in the field this week. 

There are five players in the field from the state of Michigan: Lindsey McPherson (Flushing), Christine 

Meier (Rochester Hills), Elizabeth Nagel (DeWitt) and the Shipley sisters, Gabrielle and Sarah, of Hastings. There are also five players in the field that played at Michigan State: Allyssa Ferrell, Lindsey McPherson, Christine Meier, Elizabeth Nagel and Alison Knowles. 

The field is strong as nine of the top 10 on the current money list will tee it up. The only player not in the field this week is Nanna Koerstz Madsen, who is playing the LPGA-LET co-sanctioned event in Scotland (Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open). Further, 17 of the top 20 are in the field. 

Since the LPGA is overseas this week, there are quite a few LPGA members in the field. There are 30 total LPGA members in the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship including Sheils, who finished T35 last week on the LPGA at the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio. 

Battle Creek Country Club is a par-72 and will play 6,585 yards this week. 

SHIPLEY SISTERS ARE THE HEADLINERS: The Shipley sisters - Gabrielle and Sarah - are the two sponsor exemptions into the field this week. The Hastings natives will compete together in the event for the first time. Gabrielle was a sponsors exemption last year and missed the cut with rounds of 76-74. Sarah, a rising sophomore at the University of Kentucky, will play in her first professional event. 

“I am beyond thankful and blessed to have received this sponsor’s exemption. This tournament is one of the highlights of my summer schedule and I am glad to be playing alongside my little sister this year,” stated Gabrielle. “FireKeepers and the Battle Creek Country Club put on a top notch event every year and I can’t wait to get out there, play my game, trust the process and enjoy walking inside the ropes!”

In May of 2016, Gabrielle ended her college career at Grand Valley State by winning the NCAA DII individual national title. She became the second player in school history to accomplish the feat. 

Sarah, who was the 2015 Golf Association of Michigan Girls’ Player of the Year, had one top 10 finish as a freshman for the Wildcats during the 2016-17 season. The highlight of her season was winning the 

individual match-play bracket at the East & West Match Play Challenge in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Gabrielle played high school golf at Hastings High School while Sarah played at Delton Kellogg High School. 

THIRD POTAWATOMI CUP EVENT: The Potawatomi Cup is back for a fourth season. The four 

tournaments sponsored by Potawatomi nation tribes came together before the 2014 season to provide a pot of bonus money for the players based on performance at the four events. 

There is a total of $40,000 available through the Potawatomi Cup and $8,500 is awarded at each 

tournament. The player with the most points after the fourth event (PHC Classic next week) will earn a $6,000 bonus. The money earned through the Potawatomi Cup does not count towards the official Tour money list. 

Emma Talley, who won the Island Resort Championship, currently leads the Potawatomi Cup with 585 points while Kendall Dye, who won the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship, is in second place with 556.4 points. 

The winner of the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship will earn 500 points towards the Potawatomi Cup. 

Min Seo Kwak won the Potawatomi Cup in 2014, Annie Park won in 2015 and Laura Gonzalez Escallon won in 2016. Two of the three winners of the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship went onto win the whole cup. 

2015 CHAMP RETURNS FEELING CONFIDENT: Madeleine Sheils loves coming back to Battle Creek. In 2015, she picked up her first win at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship.

“I remember having fun all week long, from my host house to my pro-am group to my Friday-Sunday 

pairing,” said Sheils as she gets ready for a return. “I loved the golf course and my game was in good shape that summer. I was really ecstatic after the win.”

The victory brought tears to her eyes. In a memorable moment after signing her scorecard, she grabbed her phone out of her golf bag and made sure to call her parents to tell them the news before the trophy ceremony. 

Sheils now focuses primarily on the LPGA Tour after earning conditional LPGA status at LPGA Qualifying Tournament in December of 2016. She has made nine starts on the LPGA and had her best finish of the year (T35) last week.

“I am quite comfortable there (LPGA) now and happy with my resilience after some not so good results,” said Sheils, who missed the cut in six of her first seven starts, but has made the cut in the last two. “While it’s unfortunate I didn’t qualify for the Scottish Open (this week) or the British (next week), I’m excited to have a chance to tee it up this week in Battle Creek while my game is feeling so strong.”

RECAP OF LAST WEEK: Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Copenhagen, Denmark) made history by carding a 22-under over four days to win the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic by seven shots. Her score broke the seven-year-old record of 19-under. It was her third win this season, which comes with a “Battlefield Promotion” to the LPGA, where she now has category 13 status as a non-member. 

“It feels really good,” said Koerstz Madsen. “It (LPGA) was the goal from the very beginning of the year and now I have it so it feels really, really nice.”

While Koerstz Madsen stole all the headlines, there was some great golf from several other players. Laura Wearn (Charlotte, N.C.) and Erynne Lee (Silverdale, Washington) both shot 29’s on the front nine on Friday. Wearn finished in second while Lee finished in fourth. There were also two hole-in-one’s on the 18th hole on Friday from Katelyn Dambaugh and Jean Chua. 

LAST YEARS WINNER DOING WELL ON LPGA: Laura Gonzalez Escallon ranks 55th on the LPGA Tour money list in 16 starts during her rookie season on the LPGA. Her win in Battle Creek was one of two wins on the Symetra Tour in 2016 and she finished fifth on the Volvik Race for the Card money list to earn her card. 

She has two top 10 finishes and four top 20 results in her first season on the LPGA. Her best result is a tie for fifth at the Manulife LPGA Classic. 

Gonzalez Escallon is in Scotland this week on the LPGA. 

SOUTH CAROLINA ROOKIE CONTINUES TO PLAY WELL: Katelyn Dambaugh (North Charleston, S.C.) has made six starts on the Symetra Tour since winning the SEC Championship to put a ribbon on her career at South Carolina. She has finished inside the top 20 in five of the six starts and registered her second top 10 last week in Rochester (T6). 

One of the few lefties in the field, Dambaugh has already found her way to 38th on the money list, even after missing the first three months of the season. 

She has been even-par of better in 13 of her 17 rounds since turning professional. 

OF NOTE

• Former Western Michigan star Britney Hamilton is the full-time caddy for Laura Wearn, who ranks 21st on the money list. Hamilton played on the Symetra Tour from 2012 through the beginning of the 2016 season. The former Lake Orion standout ended her career in 2011 at Western with the lowest scoring average in school history. She played with current WMU golf coach, Elise Swartout-Mosher.

• The top three players on the money list - Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Benyapa Niphatsophon and Celine Boutier - are all in their first seasons on the Symetra Tour. Seven of the top 20 on the money list are 

rookies. 

• There are two LPGA Tour winners in the field - Julieta Granada (2006 ADT Championship) and Silvia Cavalleri (2007 Corona Championship). 

• Daniela Iacobelli (Melbourne, Fla.) was born in Detroit and spent the first eight years of her life in the state of Michigan. She finished in a tie for 11th in Battle Creek in 2015. 

• Erynne Lee has four top 10’s and six top 20’s in her last seven starts to move up to fourth on the money list. She has not been over-par since June 16 (14 rounds of even or better).