Brighton’s Allyson Geer starts strong in Tullymore Classic

Allyson Geer hits an approach shot to the ninth green Friday (Photo courtesy of Gregory Johnson).

Allyson Geer hits an approach shot to the ninth green Friday (Photo courtesy of Gregory Johnson).

 By Gregory Johnson

 CANADIAN LAKES – For the second consecutive year playing on a sponsor’s exemption Allyson Geer of Brighton had her name popping up on the early leaderboards at the Symetra Tour’s Tullymore Classic at Tullymore Golf Resort.

  The 18-year-old Michigan State golfer shot a 4-under 68 Friday, including her only bogey of the day on the par 5 No. 18 hole. Her name was on the leaderboards for a significant amount  of time during the day, and when all had played she was tied for 10th.

  Yu Liu of China shot 8-under 64, her career best, to lead. Lindsey Weaver of Bellafontaine, Ohio, shot 65 in the $100,000 54-hole tournament. A cut to the low 60 scorers and ties followsSaturday’s play.

  Geer, who opened with a 69 a year ago on the way to a tie for 50th (1-over 217), said she has struggled with keeping her iron shots on target  in recent tournaments, including the recent Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids where she also played on a sponsor’s exemption.

  “I was close to hitting my irons better, but just not quite there and then on the range today it was one little thing and I started hitting them better,” the two-time defending Michigan Women’s Amateur champion said. “I was glad my teacher Jason (Guss) showed up.”

  This is the third professional tournament she has played in as an amateur and she said she continues to learn.

  “I think each great opportunity like this is preparing me more for me being out here someday,” she said. “At the Meijer I didn’t play as well as I expected. Today was much better.”

  She said she understands that 68 is just a good start like 69 was a year ago.

  “Like any pro tournament you have to be under par and make minimal mistakes,” she said. “In fact you have to get under par and keep doing it the whole tournament.”

  She birdied the par 4 No. 2 hole and then had birdies at Nos. 5 and 7, both par 3s on the front side. On the back she made six consecutive pars before consecutive birdies on Nos. 16 and 17. On the par 5 No. 18 hole her third shot was to 25-feet above the hole location. She three-putted from that spot for her only bogey.

  “I left a couple of putts short and I think I was just not getting a feel for the greens sometimes,” she said. “We had a great game plan though, and we stuck to it. My caddie (Nick Park of Brighton) knew the slopes on the greens. It was stuff we took from last year, and we have taken that forward in terms of course management.”

Laura Kueny Starts Farewell Tournament With 71 

  Laura Kueny of Whitehall, a veteran Symetra Tour player and the billboard face of the Tullymore Classic shot a 71 in the first round.

 “I played well for the first time in a while,” she said. “I hit my driver and my 3-wood well. This is a position course, which doesn’t always fit my game, but I handled it today. Hopefully I can get a few more under par rounds.”

  Kueny, a former Michigan State standout, 2010 Big Ten Golfer of the Year and two-time Miss Golf in high school, announced her retirement from tour golf earlier this week, and said Tullymore seemed like the perfect place to do it.

  “I like the people here and the tournament,” she said. “I’m sort of the poster child for this tournament, and it’s close to my hometown and all my family is here to watch me play. My mom is my caddie this week. So this was the right place and right time to do it. I’ve been thinking about doing other things in my life, so it’s time to try.”

  Kueny has a Symetra Tour win from 2013 when she came up just short of earning LPGA Tour status, and won the Michigan Women’s Open in 2011. She has also had to work through two wrist surgeries in recent years.

  “I found myself not thinking about golf as much as I should, and not missing it when I was recovering from surgery as much,” she said. “I really had only discussed it with my boyfriend. I just decided. It is kind of bittersweet. I’ve gone a lot of places, met a lot of great people and contacts through golf.”

Liz Nagel of DeWitt Opens with a 70

  DeWitt’s Liz Nagel, a Symetra Tour regular, has struggled recently and she said she used the Michigan Women’s Open earlier this week to make a few changes in her golf game. They worked. She shot 70 to start.

  “I’ve been close to playing well, but not putting it all together at the right time,” she said. “It was nice to have the game together today, and we will try and keep it going and get better and better.”

McPherson, Meier and Hoffman

  Lindsey McPherson of Flushing, fresh off her Michigan Women’s Open victory and back on the Symetra Tour, opened with an even-par round of 72.

  Christine Meier of Rochester, a two-time Michigan Women’s Amateur champion and like McPherson a former Michigan State golfer, also opened with a 72.

  Sarah Hoffman of Saline, a former Grand Valley State golfer, shot 84.

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