CHAMPION - Avery Rochester has some chilling news for those competing in the 87th annual Upper Peninsula Ladies Golf Association tournament Saturday through Tuesday at the Wawonowin Country Club:
"I'm pretty close to my peak," the 17-year-old defending UPLGA champion said. "I'm pretty confident."
The Marquette golfer, coming off her second straight U.P. Division 1 high school golf title, will be one of 75 competitors in the tournament.
Avery Rochester drives off the 10th tee during a high school tournament held May 14 at Wawonowin Country Club. The 2012 Upper Peninsula Ladies Golf Association tournament champion will attempt to defend her title at the Ely Township course beginning Saturday. (Journal file photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
2011 UPLGA titlist Carley Saint-Onge chips at Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris during 2012. (Escanaba Daily Press photo)
The new Saturday-through-Tuesday format will have stroke play Saturday, after which the 16-player championship flight - among others - will be determined.
Match play begins Sunday, with quarterfinal action on Monday. Semifinals will be held Tuesday morning, with the championship round scheduled for about 2 p.m.
"Traditionally, the tournament was Monday through Thursday," Wawonowin general manager/pro Ryan Tunteri said. "But the UPLGA bylaws were changed to entice a few more golfers to play. Some couldn't take four days off work."
He added officials were "hoping for a few more" than the 75 who have entered this tournament.
Besides Rochester, other top contenders are expected to include 2011 UPLGA titlist Carley Saint-Onge of Marquette; Cathy Kucherak of Ontonagon; 2012 semifinalists Cathy Shamion of Ontonagon and JoAnn Poncino of Iron Mountain; and Sue Micklow of Marquette.
They will have to challenge Rochester, who has already played at Wawonowin "7 or 8 times" this season and planned to get in a couple of more rounds before Saturday's opening play.
"My dad worked there for 18 years, so I pretty much grew up on that course," she said. "I've played there many, many times."
Rochester said UPLGA golfers need to keep the ball straight to avoid trees lining the course.
"The greens are not super big, but they're fast," she added. "You have to develop a good feel for them."
Golfers can be aggressive, but need to strike a balance so as not to hit the ball out of bounds or in the water.
Rochester has been practicing regularly at Wawonowin along with the Heritage and Greywalls courses at the Marquette Golf Club.
"My game has definitely improved," she said. "I've been working on my short game and that's one of my best parts now."
She also participated in a week-long golf camp at downstate Boyne Highlands and competed in the Michigan Junior Amateur at Michigan State University's Forest Akers course.
Rochester said she shot a 74 the first day there to tie for first place, then followed with an 80, still making the top 16 for match play. She then lost her first match on the 17th hole.
She said she's "not expecting anything" in the UPLGA tourney.
"I just want to play my game and see how I do," Rochester said. "I just want to see how I stack up against the field."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.