Three takeaways from the first Circling Raven Championship last weekend:
Players loved one of the Symetra Tour’s newest additions. The level of play was impressive.
And three, volunteers, spectators and sponsors are already making plans to return next August for the second Circling Raven Championship.
“It’s awesome,” said Bailey Tardy, who finished in a tie for third. “Being able to stay next to the golf course, I personally really enjoy it. It really feels like we’re at a resort because you wake up and don’t have to get in a car to come here. You can just walk on over.
“The course is in unbelievable shape. I feel like each week, tournament sites are stepping up their game and we’re playing even better conditioned (courses), but the greens out here, the fairways, everything is just immaculate. This is a great new addition. I can’t wait to see this tournament the next couple years.”
Tardy might not get that chance if she continues playing the way she did over the weekend (66-64). She’s 10th on the money list – the top 10 graduate to the LPGA next season – by a mere $96 over No. 11 Sophia Schubert. Tardy missed earning an LPGA card during a COVID-19 shortened 2020 season by just $343.
“This is my revenge year,” she smiled.
Peiyun Chien carded a 16-under 200 over 54 holes for a one-shot victory. Twenty-one others finished at least 10 under and low scores were common on a course that measured nearly 6,600 yards.
“It’s gorgeous,” said Min-G Kim, who shared ninth place. “Fresh air, I’m very thankful for missing (the smoky skies). It’s really on how you play this course. It can be really hard if you’re not playing well, but at same time it can be really gettable if you are playing well.”
Players praised the course, location and the hospitality of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which hosted a welcome dinner during the week. There were opportunities to canoe or take boat rides.
Players thanked volunteers that kept track of their scores and usually handed them signed golf balls. The No. 1 and No. 10 holes shared a tee box area and players frequently applauded for competitors when their names were announced.
“Overwhelmingly the response I heard was this was an incredible event and a must stop on the Symetra Tour,” Circling Raven director of golf Dave Christenson said. “Even the organizers with the Symetra said it was the best organized event they’ve been to. That made us feel proud.
“I’ve already had a couple of sponsors reach out and make sure they’re in for next year. People who attended, they saw all the volunteers and wanted to make sure they could volunteer for next year.”
Numerous players in the field had LPGA experience, including Chien, or are positioned to be on the tour next season. At least one player drove the green on the 343-yard first hole that was playing downwind (the nines were reversed for the tournament). On the par-5 10th, a player pounded her tee shot to where “I’ve never seen a drive that far down the fairway,” Christenson said.
Symetra Tour (or the preceding Futures Tour) products involved in the Solheim Cup this week include world No. 1 Nelly Korda and Mina Harigae for Team USA and Sophia Popov, Madelene Sagstrom and Leona Maguire for Europe.
“The top 10 at the end of the year make it through to the LPGA, that says a lot,” said former University of Idaho standout Sophie Hausmann, 14th on the Symetra money list after missing the cut at the Circling Raven Championship. “The Symetra sometimes gets a little talked down, but at the end of the day they can all play golf.”