ESCANABA - After winning the last two U.P. Ladies Golf Association titles, Marquette's Avery Rochester figures to be the favorite. But if she's going to make it a three-peat, she'll have to defeat a field of the finest women golfers who come from all across the U.P.
This year's tournament will take place at the Highland Golf Club, in Escanaba, this weekend. There will be 58 women competing.
"The course is in excellent shape right now," co-chairman of the UPLGA Judy Peltier said. "The greens are faster than they've ever been. I think it's pretty straight, but pretty long, so I guess anything could happen with anyone."
In addition to Rochester, Karen Wiles from Escanaba, Lori Shea from Gladstone, Nancy Osier out of Gogebic, Nichole Hosking from the Highland, and Sandra Collins from The Crossings in Sault Ste Marie, figure to be a few of the names competing for the title.
Other contenders from the Western U.P. include Zoe Woodworth of Calumet, a semifinalist in 2013 and quarterfinalist in 2012, and Cathy Shamion of Ontonagon
"A few of them could be the winners," Peltier said about the competitive field. "The top five groups, anyone in that group could be the winner."
Still, the favorite is Rochester, who is fresh off of competing on the LPGA Symetra Tour at Sweetgrass, three weeks ago, as well as the Missouri Amateur Open at the Golf Club of Creekmoor. At 16, Rochester won her first UPLGA title in 2012. She then went on to repeat as champion the following year. Now, she enters this weekend after completing her freshman season playing for the Columbia (Mo.) College golf team.
Despite being one of the frontrunners, Rochester's strategy this weekend remains the same.
"Even in the first tournament, I just tried to go into it and play my own game and not expecting anything," she said. "Anyone can have a bad day of golf. It just all depends on how I'm playing this weekend and how everyone else is playing. I'm just going to try to go in there and have fun and try to play a few good rounds of golf."
The first day of play will begin today, with tee times beginning at 9 a.m., all the way up until 11:10 a.m. After Saturday, the women will be put into flights, with the top 16 headed to the championship flight. From there, they will square-off against one another in a match play format, where a winner will be decided after rounds on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
For Rochester, she is used to competing in the stroke play format, which she has used for the better part of her life, including her time at the collegiate level. But since she has experience in this event, she has come to enjoy the match play style.
"I actually really like to play match play," she said. "It's a lot different than stroke golf, because you take it hole-by-hole rather than your entire score. If I have a bad hole in stroke play, I'll think about that and where I'll make it up. In match play, you just lose the hole and there's no reason to think about that after you finish the hole. You just have to take it hole-by-hole."
Out of the 58 women competing, 11 of them are members of the Highland. One of those, is five-time Highland Club Champion, Denise Porath, who is also a co-chairman of the UPLGA. In winning those club champion titles, Porath had to do it through match play, so she's all too familiar with both the course and the competing format.
"I know the layout of the course, and also, the club tournament is match play, so I'm very familiar with match play and the stresses," Porath said about her experience. "Knowing the layout of the course helps, yes. But by the second or third day, everyone pretty much knows the layout of the course."
With many people opting to compete in group tournaments, playing your own ball in has become less popular, making this weekends event all that more unique.
"People want to play best ball, three-person, or four-person scramble," Peltier said. To play the game of golf yourself is kind of a lost art."