The girls’ are back in town. Or rather, the Ladies.
The Symetra Tour returns to Marion this week for the fourth annual Ladies Titan Tire Challenge.
The tour has changed names over the years — it was Duramed the first two years, the LPGA Futures Tour last year — but the talent and the dreams of the players here has remained constant.
“You are seeing the LPGA stars of the future today in your backyard,” said Tracy Kerdyk, vice president of tournament development for the Symetra Tour.
While that is a catchy — and often overused — phrase for minor league in all professional sports, Kerdyk has some facts to back her up.
All three previous winners at Hunters Ridge Golf Course have earned their LPGA cards and two — Mina Harige in 2009 and Kathleen Ekey last year — claimed Player of the Year honors.
The mission is to “prepare the world’s best young women professional golfers for a successful career on the LPGA Tour.” It calls itself the developmental tour for the LPGA and has developed some pretty good talent, like Hall of Famer Karrie Webb and six members of last year’s U.S. Solheim Cup team.
But these women already play some very good golf.
“This is what people don’t realize,” said Kerdyk, who played on the LPGA Tour for 10 years. “They are not developing their games … they are one shot away from the LPGA.”
This is the only Iowa stop on the tour schedule, which started in March in Winter Haven, Fla., and ends in late September in Daytona Beach, Fla. The tour also makes stops in Mexico, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana during its 16-event schedule.
The Marion-Cedar Rapids area is a perfect market, Kerdyk said.
“We do better in communities like this,” she said. “We are up their at the top (of sporting events in the area).”
Tournament week begins Monday with practice at Hunters Ridge for any player in town. There are women’s and junior clinics on Tuesday and pro-ams Wednesday and Thursday. The three-day tournament begins on Friday at 7:45 a.m.
Kerdyk encourages anyone interested in professional golf to give the event a chance. One of the highlights, she said. is the interaction with the pros.
“You can actually engage with a player,” she said. “(The players) want people to be out there. They want to sign autographs. They want the kids to come out and want to be role models.”
And you can watch some talented golfers at the same time.