Golfers tee off at FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship

Gabrielle Shipley tees off on hole 10 to start the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship.jpg
Gabrielle Shipley tees off on hole 10 to start the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship. (WWMT/Luke Edwards)

The golf course at the Battle Creek Country Club was quieter than normal as golfers on the Symetra Tour hit the tees early Friday morning.

As the golfers' names were called at the tee box July 24, 2020, they were followed by the clapping of hands from event volunteers and their fellow competitors, because no fans were in attendance other than the few family members of players that were allowed to follow their daughters during the opening round of the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship.

"Yeah I mean I feel like it's pretty normal for us, especially going off early there usually aren't many fans out there. It was nice going out there doing my thing I like to go off early so that was really nice and peaceful," Lauren Stephenson said.

The mostly fan-free event allowed for a peaceful round, but for Stephenson, it was nothing out of the ordinary since she started her round at 7:52 a.m. before most fans would be out there.

Ruixin Liu also enjoyed an early tee time, taking advantage of the 8:03 a.m. start by entering the clubhouse with the lead, firing a 66 in the opening round that was good for 6-under.

Liu said the lack of fans helped ease the adrenaline.

"It's not going to be that much adrenaline going on that's for sure. I still really enjoy the peace and quiet on the course and focus on what I do," Liu said.

Janie Jackson, the lone Symetra Tour winner so far this season, shot a 69 landing her at 3-under and three shots off the lead.

"I'm happy with it. I think after a long break it's always good to come back and shoot under par. Realistically I could've shot better, but I'm not going to complain I think it was a good way to start back," Jackson said.

Hastings natives Gabrielle Shipley and Sarah Shipley hit the tee box at 2:20 p.m. Friday. It was the first time in their careers that they have been paired together in a tournament.