It was nearly a full-fledged youth movement during the opening sun-splashed day of the 94th annual Spring Lake Invitational Tournament at Spring Lake Country Club on Monday.
West Olive native Collette Hansen, a recent graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy, already had a free pass into the championship flight since she’s the event’s defending champion. But she backed it up impressively on Monday by earning medalist honors during the qualifying round, shooting an even par 72.
Recent Mona Shores High School graduate Britni Gielow will join Hansen in the top flight, after she turned in a strong round of 80.
“It was just OK,” she said. “This is my first time out here, other than the practice round (Sunday).”
Spring Lake High School graduate Emily Rosencrants had a chance to put three players in the championship flight under the age of 25, but she lost a playoff after tying with two other players with an 84. Kalamazoo’s Sue Campbell, 59, earned the last spot in the championship flight by winning on the second playoff hole.
Although Hansen stole the show, it was an impressive start for Gielow, who was apart of four-straight Division 2 state championships at Mona Shores. She will continue her golf career at Grand Valley State University next spring.
“I never played that great at state, but I was always top 10,” Gielow said.
“My dad actually found out about this tournament,” she added. “We’re playing just (amateur) events this summer, getting ready for college. I hope to be in the last group on the final day. That’s my goal.”
Gielow, who showcased a booming drive throughout her round, will battle Bobbi Ferreira in the first round after she shot an 83.
Kalamazoo-area golfer Diane Kiino will take on Donna Benford in the bottom half of the bracket.
Benford, a family practice physician from Linden, started her round in a tough spot — recording a triple bogey on the first hole — but settled down with a consistent stretch of pars.
“I have a evil twin named Vanessa who comes out, then I have to scramble around,” she said with a laugh. “It’s the bad swings. I pulled out one really long putt, and it’s like, ‘OK, Vanessa, you can go away now.’”
When she’s able to work it into her busy schedule, Benford said she loves coming to the long-standing Spring Lake Tournament.
“I’ve been coming on-and-off over the years,” she said. “It’s such a great event. Aside from the (Golf Association of Michigan tournament), there’s not another (match play) event like it around.”
Hansen will take on Campbell in the top half of the bracket, while Ada’s Joan Garety, a decorated champion at the SLIT and last year’s runner-up, will face Spring Lake Country Club member Kathy Eisenga. Eisenga carded an 82, while Garety shot an 81.