Three insights from the first Circling Raven Championship last weekend:
The players loved one of the newest additions to the Symetra Tour. The level of play was impressive.
Third, volunteers, spectators and sponsors are already making plans to return to the second Circling Raven Championship next August.
“It’s great,” said Bailey Tardy, who finished third with a draw. “Being able to live next to the golf course is a lot of fun for me personally. It really feels like we are in a resort because you wake up and don’t have to get in a car to get here. You can just go on.
“The course is in incredible condition. I have the feeling that the tournament courses are improving their game every week and we are playing even better conditioned (courses), but the greens out here, the fairways, everything is just flawless. This is a great innovation. I can’t wait to see this tournament in the next few years. “
Tardy may not get that chance if she continues to play as she did at the weekend (66-64). She is 10th on the money list – the top 10 LPGA graduate next season – with just $ 96 ahead of Sophia Schubert in 11th place. Tardy missed it by just 343 during a 2020 season shortened by COVID-19 US dollars to earn an LPGA card.
“This is my year of revenge,” she smiled.
Peiyun Chien carded a 16-under 200 over 54 holes for a one-shot win. Twenty-one others finished at least 10 under and low scores were common on a course measuring nearly 6,600 yards.
“It’s beautiful,” said Min-G Kim, who tied ninth place. “Fresh air, I am very grateful that I miss (the smoky sky). It really comes down to how you play this course. It can be very difficult if you don’t play well, but at the same time it can be really good if you play well. “
The players praised the space, location and hospitality of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, who hosted a welcome dinner during the week. There were opportunities for canoeing or boat trips.
The players thanked volunteers who recorded their results and usually presented them with signed golf balls. Holes # 1 and # 10 shared a tee area and the players often applauded the participants when their names were announced.
“The overwhelming response I heard was that this was an incredible event and a must-see on the Symetra Tour,” said Dave Christenson, Golf Director of Circling Raven. “Even the Symetra organizers said it was the best organized event they have ever been to. That made us proud.
“I’ve already contacted a few sponsors to make sure they’ll be there next year. The people who attended saw all of the volunteers and wanted to make sure they could sign up for the next year. “
Numerous players in the field have had LPGA experience, including Chien, or are ready to be on the tour for the next season. At least one player drove the green of the 343 yard first hole downwind (the nines were reversed for the tournament). On the 10th par-5, a player hammered her tee shot where “I’ve never seen a drive this far down the fairway,” said Christenson.
Symetra Tour (or previous Futures Tour) products that participated in the Solheim Cup this week include Nelly Korda and Mina Harigae for Team USA and Sophia Popov, Madelene Sagstrom and Leona Maguire for Europe.
“The top 10 make it to the LPGA at the end of the year, which says a lot,” said Sophie Hausmann, former University of Idaho standout, 14th on the Symetra money list after missing the cut in the Circling Raven Championship would have. “The Symetra is talked down a bit sometimes, but at the end of the day they can all play golf.”