Home Sweet Home: DeWitt’s Liz Nagel Shoots 67 to Lead Michigan Women’s Open

  THOMPSONVILLE – DeWitt’s Liz Nagel always feels at home anywhere in Michigan.

 The 26-year-old Symetra Tour player birdied two of the last three holes coming home on the Mountain Ridge Course at Crystal Mountain Resort Monday to shoot 5-under 67 and lead through the first round of the 25th Michigan Women’s Open Championship.

  “One of these years it’s got to fall into place for me here,” said the former Michigan State golfer. “We came from Harris (Symetra Tour event in Upper Peninsula) last week, and that’s always fun because my grandparents retired up there. It feels like home. Anywhere in Michigan feels like home really, and I love it here. This is a couple of great weeks for me and I like the way I’m playing.”

  Laura Kueny of Whitehall, another former Spartan and the 2011 Women’s Open champion who announced her retirement from tour golf here last year, shot 68, and was tied for second with last year’s runner-up, Marissa Chow, a Symetra Tour player from Honolulu, and Alexandra Harkins of Crystal Lake, Ill., another Symetra Tour player.

  Recent Michigan State graduate Sarah Burnham of Maple Grove, Minn., Scotland’s Rachael Taylor, a former North Carolina State golfer, and Kelly Grassel of Chesterton, Ind., a former University of Wisconsin golfer, shot 69. Burnham won her pro debut a few weeks ago in the Connecticut Women’s Open.

  Current Michigan State player Yurika Tanida of Japan shot 70, and is low amateur in the field at this point.

  Three Michigan golfers were part of the group at 71 — Sarah Hoffman of Saline, Christine Meier of Rochester Hills and amateur Sarah Shipley of Hastings, who plays at the University of Kentucky.

  The field of 96 golfers, which includes women from 19 states and seven countries, plays a second round Tuesday. A cut will be made following play to the low 70 scores and ties for the final round in the 54-hole, $40,000 state championship.

  Nagel birdied the par 4 16th and reached the par 5 18th in two shots to earn a two-putt birdie to finish in the lead.

  “At 16 I hit it in there about nine feet and had a little left to right slider that broke about three cups,” she said. “That was a good pin. That hole is usually a good par, but I will take the birdie. I’m putting well and playing well and this course is probably in the best shape it has been ever since I’ve been coming here. The greens are rolling great.”

  Nagel had LPGA status after graduating from Michigan State four years ago, but has since been on the Symetra Tour trying to earn her way back.

  “The gap between the Symetra and the LPGA in talent is getting smaller, too,” she said. “It is a good place for me to be right now. I feel like it’s making me better.”

  She said her goal for the rest of the week is to continue playing the way she has been playing.

  “I’ve been putting well and I want to keep feeling comfortable on the greens,” she said. “At the end of the week if I’m in the lead it will be awesome. I want to win. I’m here to win, but I’ve learned focusing on winning is not how you win. I’m focusing on myself and nobody else.”

  Kueny, who is 30 and recently became engaged to be married to Joey Smith of Greensboro, N.C., has played in only a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in terms of competitive golf since last season.

    “I haven’t been playing competitively so it’s hard to get into that mind-set again,” she said after a three-putt bogey on 18 to close her round. “I keep telling myself you know you are not doing this for a living any longer. Just go out there and enjoy it. I had my dad on the bag and took advantage of the good misses I had and got some putts to fall.”

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