This week in Albany, NY is the closest to home a few players will ever be while competing on the Symetra Tour. Each a few hours away from home, they say this week still feels like a “home advantage.” From growing up on similar courses lined with trees to family and friends around, they are looking forward to the inaugural Twin Bridges Championship at Pinehaven Country Club.
“My parents are getting a lot older, and they rarely get to come out. I have a limited amount of time with them, so I want them to always be out there but it’s just not possible,” said Karen Chung (Livingston, New Jersey). “Having them come out this week makes me so happy.”
Living in the Northeast, amateurs and new golfers have a limited time compared to those in the warmer states to practice on a course. There may be indoor facilities, but the course time in incomparable. For Cindy Ha (Demarest, New Jersey), her father was the reason behind her start in golf in New Jersey and what grew into her career.
“My dad was an avid golfer and he had bought a junior golf set for my older brother and he really didn’t get into it. He had no interest in hitting a dead ball. He was probably 10 at the time and I was nine and I got more into it and started to really be able to hit the ball. My dad said, ‘Ok, if you have some sort of feel for this let’s keep it going,” said Ha.
“We had this little tour here called the Pioneer Tour in Bergen County and that’s where I played in my first tournament. It was 12 and under girls and boys. I grew up playing with mostly the boys and ever since then I really loved the game,” said Ha. “Now when I come back during the breaks, I still play with the guys I grew up with and we try to play as many holes as we can without getting frostbite. It’s nice this week to have been able to go home really quick to refresh and hopefully have my parents come out this weekend to watch.”
Each Symetra Tour Member talking about stops home and reflecting on where they started playing the game they love. The same goes for Natalie Sheary (West Harftford, Connecticut), whose said she feels this event is as close to a full-circle moment as they come. She grew up playing other sports such as basketball, but after a golf lesson for her 12th birthday, she was hooked. This week she will have someone who has been there from the start right by her side.
“Door to door it’s only about two hours, so I am able to have my family come watch this week. For the first time ever (Todd Daigneault) who has forever fit me for my clubs to this day is coming up to caddy for me,” said Sheary. “He has never seen me play in competition, we have played a few rounds together so he can see how all my equipment works, club wise. It will be fun to have him out there and see my game under pressure and they we have the week off next week so if anything needs to be changed, we have plenty of time.”
SWEDICK COMPETING IN HER FIRST PROFESSIONAL EVENT
Playing in her hometown and state this week is amateur Kennedy Swedick (Albany, New York). At only fourteen-years-old, Swedick will be competing in her first professional event at Pinehaven Country Club starting Friday. The tournament chose Swedick to be one of their two invites into this week’s event, the other being Gabi Ruffels. Swedick has been waiting a long time for this start as she was originally invited to compete in this tournament last season before it was postponed due to COVID-19.
“It’s amazing to be here. I am so excited. Last year I didn’t really get to meet to many players at the pro-am since the tournament was postponed until now. This week I am really looking forward to not only playing with them but also to see how my game lines up,” said Swedick. “Just seeing how they prep and practice all week to how they play the course. I can’t wait. I really look up to everyone (in the LPGA and Symetra Tour), but really Nelly Korda, I love her. Really both Korda sisters. All that they have done is amazing. Now to be able to play with the pro’s this week in incredible.”
Swedick most recently competed in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, MD. After finishing T21 in the stroke-play portion, Swedick was defeated by Katie Li in the second round of match play.
“It was my first USGA event so it was cool to see how they did things and everyone’s personality on how they responded to things on the course was just amazing,” said Swedick.
MILIGAN COMPETING IN ALBANY ON WAPT INVITE
This season the Women’s All Pro Tour (WAPT) tournament has been awarding spots into a corresponding Symetra Tour event for the top-two finishers. Additionally, the top five players on the season’s WAPT Player of the Year program will receive exemptions into Stage II of LPGA Q-School. Kaitlin Miligan (Norman, Oklahoma) finished second at the Texarkana Children’s Charities Open at Texarkana CC Park to amateur Grace Kim and earned an exemption into this week’s Twin Bridges Championship.
“My second and third round (at the WAPT event) are really what helped me get here today. I had a solid week and was hitting it very well. I didn’t make many putts, but my irons helped me get away with it. Just being super comfortable on the course and with my driver really helped it all come together,” said Miligan.
“It’s been a good week so far and I am very excited. Since Q-School was canceled last year and everything else that took place, my plans changed a bit. I am very honored and blessed to have this opportunity and excited to see what the future could hold based on what happens this week.”
Prior to starting her professional career, Miligan competed at the University of Oklahoma Sooners where she finished T1 in the 2019 NCAA Norman Regional. She also participated in the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur finishing T19.
“That was probably the most nervous I have been and biggest stage I have ever played on thus far. If that can’t prepare me for what I am about to encounter this week then I don’t know what will. While that really helps me learn about playing with nerves college really helped me learn that I could compete and that I do belong here.”