THOMPSONVILLE – Former Michigan State All-American Sarah Burnham of Maple Grove, Minn., continued a great spring, even though she has had to trek across the country to find tournaments amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 24-year-old second-year LPGA Tour player shot an opening 7-under 65 Monday on the Mountain Ridge course at Crystal Mountain to take a two-shot lead in the 27th Michigan PGA Women’s Open Championship. The $40,000 54-hole championship continues through Wednesday.
Allie White of Athens, Ohio, a 30-year-old Symetra Tour player, shot 67, and Nishtha Madan, a native of India who played golf for Sacramento State University and now lives in Grand Rapids, shot 68.
“The greens were pure and it was fun to play them,” Burnham said after hitting a 50-degree wedge to one foot on No. 18 for a closing birdie. “It’s good to be playing back up north on the grass I’m used to playing.”
Burnham, awaiting the LPGA schedule to kick in, has been burning up the grass wherever she has played. Already this spring she has won three mini-tour tournaments, including two on the Cactus Tour in Arizona and one on the Eggland’s Best Tour in Florida.
“I was in Arizona and my parents live in Florida, so I was able to play pretty often and my game has been really good some weeks,” she said. “I’m gaining confidence, and I’ve been able to win and be in that pressure. I’m learning a lot.”
Her game looked confident Monday with eight birdies against just one bogey in her round.
“I was actually feeling kind of nervous to start out, but I chipped in on my first hole,” she said. “That was kind of fun. So, I felt like it might be a good day with that first hole.”
White, a former North Carolina University golfer in her seventh year as a professional, is playing in the Michigan PGA Women’s Open for the fourth time. She said the course has always found a way to get her in the past.
“I got it back a little today, and maybe I’ve learned some lessons from playing it before,” she said. “I feel really good about it. The highlight I guess is that I’m thankful to be able to play golf and that they could have this tournament. It’s hard to get stressed out about golf when you are just thankful to get out there and play.”
White had six birdies in her round and credited her putting.
“My putter was hot,” she said. “I made some really good putts that made up for some other shots. It was just great to be playing.”
A current Michigan State standout, Haylin Harris of Carmel, Ind., was fourth through the first round with a 69. She was tied with another amateur from the Big Ten Conference, Sarah Willis of Eaton, Ohio, who plays at Penn State University.
Six golfers shot 70, including the 2018 Michigan PGA Women’s Open champion and LPGA Tour player Liz Nagel of DeWitt, and Spring Lake’s Anna Kramer, who currently plays for the University of Indianapolis.
Defending champion Anika Dy, the University of Michigan golfer from Traverse City who used to work at Crystal Mountain, shot 72.
ABOUT CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN: Crystal Mountain was established in 1956, and is a family-owned, four-season resort that is nationally recognized for its skiing, golf, and award-winning spa. Located in northwest-lower-Michigan, a short drive from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the resort features downhill and cross-country skiing, the Michigan Legacy Art Park, 36 holes of championship golf on two courses, Michigan’s only alpine slide, an outdoor water playground, a variety of lodging and dining options, year-round activities and kids programs, an IACC-approved conference center, weddings, real estate and the Crystal Spa. Visit crystalmountain.com.