Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Epson Tour’s Circling Raven Championship runs its course after three years

The Circling Raven Championship is no longer on the Epson Tour schedule after a three-year run at Circling Raven Golf Club.

The original three-year contract between the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which operates the award-winning course in Worley, and the Epson Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour, expired after the 2023 tournament last August.

“Yes, basically,” Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel CEO Laura Penney said, when asked if it was a business decision not to continue hosting the tournament. “We pursued the Symetra Tour (renamed the Epson Tour in 2022), it was a great group of ladies and they are a fine representation of the game of golf.

“We wanted to get recognition, kind of revitalize our name and put us on the map, and we also wanted to support the ladies. And we did that. We did that with the program, so I think it kind of ran its course and it did well.”

The 54-hole tournament brought high-level players, including numerous former and current LPGA members, to the scenic course.

“I caddied for a year when it was the Nike Tour back in 1991, so I know how good (the Epson Tour) is,” Circling Raven director of golf Chris Runyan said. “To have them out here was just amazing.”

Peiyun Chien, who won the inaugural Circling Raven Championship in 2021, had five top-10 LPGA finishes in 2023 and boasts nearly $1.5 million in career earnings. Lilia Vu, who tied for 12th in 2021, won two majors in 2023, climbed to No. 1 in the world rankings and was named the LPGA Tour Player of the Year. Bailey Tardy, who tied for third in the 2021 CRC, won the Blue Bay LPGA tournament last month.

Chanettee Wannasaen, 19, who lost to Yue Ren in a playoff last August at Circling Raven, won the Portland Classic the following week, becoming the first Monday qualifier to win on the LPGA Tour since 2015. Alexa Pano, who finished third in 2022 at age 18 behind champion Jillian Hollis, won the ISPS Handa World Invitational and had five straight top-25 finishes as an LPGA rookie in 2023.

“They’re just fine athletes,” Penney said. “Just to watch them tee off was amazing. And the pro-ams, to play with them side by side, it improved my game (by) a couple of strokes.”

Players raved about the quality course conditions and the hotel nearby. Fan attendance was somewhat limited by the spacious course layout over 620 acres, distance between holes and numerous environmentally protected areas.

“It’s awesome,” said Tardy, shortly after finishing her final round at the 2021 event. “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.”

The inaugural Circling Raven Championship in 2020 was delayed a year due to the COVID pandemic.

“We all enjoyed the tournaments,” Penney said, “and it was great to bring it to the Northwest.”