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A late summer fling? Symetra’s Island Resort Championship golf tournament now looks to mid-September

With the scoreboard in the background, Daniela Iacobelli of Melbourne, Fla., sinks the winning putt on a tiebreaker on the 18th hole during the final round of the Symetra Tour’s Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris on June 23, 2019. Iacobelli was tied with Cindy Ha of Paramus, N.J., at 11-under-par after the final round, forcing the tiebreaker that Iacobelli won with a birdie. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Austin Hemmingson)

“If we can get a day where our sponsors are pretty solid, then we think we’re going to go for it.” — Tony Mancilla, general manager, Island Resort and Casino

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HARRIS — The Symetra Tour’s stop at the Sweetgrass Golf Club has been given a tentative rescheduling after the LPGA announced a revised tournament schedule last week due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to adding two tournaments and extending the Symetra season for five weeks into November, officials are attempting to reschedule the Island Resort Championship tournament from June to mid-September.

The revamped schedule contains 16 events compared to the 20 originally on the docket.

China’s Ruixin Liu poses with the trophy and ceremonial Potawatomi blanket after winning the Symetra Tour's Island Resort Championship at the Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris in June 2018. (Escanaba Daily Press photo)

“First and foremost, we are grateful to our tournament partners and venues for supporting our athletes as we work to preserve as many playing opportunities as possible,” Symetra Tour chief business officer Mike Nichols said in a news release. “We’re also excited to welcome two new events to the Symetra Tour family at first-class golf courses we know will challenge our members once it is safe to return to competition.”

The interconnectivity of the tour could be a stumbling block in rescheduling.

“It’s a postponement right now,” Island Resort and Casino general manager Tony Mancilla said. “We’re trying to find a date sometime in September. If one works out, we’ll try to move it there.

“The LPGA is working with their schedule for September events, because everything got juggled back. Some events are having problems with sponsors and want to go next year. Some of them want September dates.

“They’re figuring it out with their sponsorships, and it’s the same thing with us. If we can get a day where our sponsors are pretty solid, then we think we’re going to go for it. But it also depends on what the other tournaments want to do.”

The changes will put a major damper on the usual marketing and publicity boost Sweetgrass gets to begin the summer.

“(The tour) is really one of our major marketing efforts for Sweetgrass and (the Island Resort),” Mancilla said. “It’s a regional thing. It goes down into Wisconsin all the way to Milwaukee, so it’s really one of our more high-profile events.

“It reminds people we’re here and we’ve got a first-class course. So we’re going to miss that. Either way, we’re going to miss that publicity that we normally get at the start of the summer. That’s really the big negative — we’re not going to be able to publicize it the way we normally would.”

Beyond the matters of safety due to the coronavirus, rescheduling such a big event is also a logistical hurdle.

“Well, we’re disappointed, obviously,” Mancilla said. “It’s (normally) a third week of June event for us…. It’s a lot to put together. We’re disappointed.

“We were originally going to be the first event on the calendar for the Symetra Tour. Then the LPGA, which owns the Symetra Tour, decided they weren’t going to have any events until mid-July. So they wouldn’t let us go.”

Mancilla also acknowledged that there’s the possibility the event may be canceled outright for 2020.

“Right now, it’s just postponed until September, but if we can’t find a date, then we’re not going to have one this year,” he said. “Hopefully that’s not the case. We’ll know by early June either way.

“If we don’t have it this year, our contract will extend to 2022. Originally, it was only going to extend to 2021. It was a three-year agreement, so if we’re not going to have it, we’re going to honor our contract and push it out a year.”

The latest the event could be rescheduled is late summer, due to scheduling conflicts with other events at the Island Resort.

“(The cut-off date) is probably somewhere around mid-September,” Mancilla said. “We start getting into our fall calendar at the end of September. We have showroom events at that time. We do have a couple weeks in mid-September that may work, and we’ll be looking at those dates. If we can get everything lined up, we’re going to do it. But if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

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