EAST LANSING, MICH. - They were happy tears for Michigan State freshman golfer Allyson Geer.
After finishing a poor round of golf a couple months ago, her coach, Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, said she had some good news to cheer her up. Meijer had extended Geer an invitation into the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give – which she had to keep secret until Thursday, when all three player exemptions were publicly announced for next week’s LPGA Tour event in Grand Rapids. Blythefield Country Club will host the 72-hole, four-day, $2 million event June 15-18.
Geer said she asked Slobodnik-Stoll if she meant an invitation into the qualifier. “No, an exemption into the real thing,” Slobodnik-Stoll told her. That's when the tears of joy came out, Geer said Thursday.
“The LPGA Tour is definitely a goal of mine and to have this chance to experience it and test myself is so incredible,” Geer added.
Geer is fresh off earning two Big Ten honors – Freshman of the Year and First-team All-Big Ten – after only competing half a season. She joined the Spartans in January, enrolling early after transferring some community college credits. She would have otherwise been finishing her homeschooled senior year of high school this month.
Also invited into the field at Blythefield is Michigan junior Megan Kim, and Purdue grad August Kim.
“We have a great relationship with the Big Ten, sponsoring every Big Ten school within our footprint,” said Cathy Cooper, director of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. “So with that commitment and our commitment to athletes in general, whether K-12 or collegiate, it felt like this was really a great match.”
Geer, of Brighton, is used to the spotlight. She was a two-time All-America on the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) circuit, has been the top-ranked junior player in the state of Michigan since 2013 and is the two-time defending champion of the Michigan Women’s Amateur, including the title of that tournament’s youngest ever winner.
Geer, who led the Spartans with five eagles this spring, was invited to play in last summer’s Symetra Tour event at Tullymore. She made the cut and then came within the width of a small tree branch (which turned into a double bogey when her ball fell into the hazard on the 72nd hole) of shooting the lowest amateur score in any Symetra Tour event all-time.
“It opened my eyes to what I needed to work on but it also opened my eyes that I can compete with girls like that,” Geer said. “I made the cut and that was a huge experience. I didn’t feel like I played lights out compared to what I usually do. It wasn’t a fluke. I think it was a cool experience to see that my game, not even at its best, is able to compete with the best out there.
“Hopefully I’m going to bring everything I need to for next week because I know it’s going to be even harder with the best players in the world. But I’m excited because I know no matter what happens it’s going to be a great experience.”
MSU was floundering in the fall when junior Sarah Burnham was sick for an extended period. But Burnham recovered and Geer joined the team and the Spartans went from ranked in the 70s nationally to Big Ten champion in April, then NCAA Finalists in mid-May. Burnham placed second and Geer finished fourth in April’s Big Ten Championship.
Geer said she expects to hear ‘Go Green’ chants from the fans in Grand Rapids.
“And I’m looking forward to saying some ‘go whites,’ ” she replied. “I’ll be wrapped in my State gear, even my MSU socks. I’m just going to keep it light and keep being who I am. I love interacting with crowds. It keeps me relaxed. I love meeting Spartans everywhere.”
Megan Kim, a native of Rodondo Beach, Calif., becomes the third Wolverine to be exempt in the first four years of the Meijer LPGA Classic. Grace Choi was awarded a sponsor’s exemption in 2014 and a year later, Cat Peters won a 35-golfer collegiate shoot-out to make the pro field.
"This is such a wonderful opportunity that Meijer has allowed me to have with this exemption," Kim said in a statement released by the university. “It has been a dream of mine to play on the LPGA and compete with some of the best players in the world. I'm looking forward to learning from them and representing the University of Michigan as best I can."
Megan Kim was a key component in the Wolverines earning their second straight NCAA Regional team selection and appearance in May at the NCAA Championships. She is a two-time Women's Golf Coaches Association Scholar All-American and has been a starter for 31 of a possible 32 career events.
August Kim just graduated from Purdue after placing fourth in the country in the NCAA Finals, tied with Michigan sophomore Elodie Van Dievoet, earning All-America honors. Kim posted the third best single-season stroke average in Boilermaker history at 72.55, finishing in the top-10 eight out of 11 tournaments.
The native of St. Augustine, Fla. is competing this weekend as a professional in the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Ind, on the Symetra Tour. She also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open.
Notebook: The Meijer LPGA Classic proceeds, which totaled $2.1 million the past three years, go back into local food pantries across the Midwest in the Simply Give spring campaign. The program has raised more than $28 million since its inception in 2008.
3 Doors Down will perform a concert at the golf course June 17. The concert is included for any fan with admission into the golf tournament that day.
Fathers get in free on the final round of the tournament, played on Father’s Day, if they are accompanied by their child(ren).
All three past champions are in the field: Sei Young Kim, defending champ; Lexi Thompson, 2015; and Mirim Lee, 2014. Also committed are Lydia Ko, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis, Christina Kim, Shanshan Feng, Ariya Jutanugarn and Michelle Wie.
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