Stacy Snider makes Michigan golf history

By Michael Patrick Shiels, Contributor

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- If you're going to talk about Annika, Suzy, Michelle, Se Ri and Sophie as women who've competed in men's professional golf tournaments, you have to add the name: Stacy. Stacy Snider, a Michigan State University graduate and East Lansing bartender, not only competed against the boys in a professional event, but she beat them. Now Snider, 23, has earned non-exempt status on the LPGA Tour.

On July 23, Snider won her second-ever professional start: the $100,000 Michigan PGA Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain Resort. The 54-hole event, founded in 1992, pitted a mixed field of winners of sanctioned Michigan golf tournaments. Snider qualified for the tournament based on the 84th Michigan Women's Amateur Championship title she captured in 2000.

Her payoff was a check for $17,250 -- four times more than she'd ever earned in a year while working summer jobs at golf courses and tending bar in East Lansing.

"Winning the money is unbelievable. It takes a lot of weight off of my shoulders," said Snider, who used some of the money to enter LPGA Qualifying Tournaments. "I also like the idea that people are telling me I've made Michigan golf history. They say it has national impact."

Snider bested a field that included veteran touring professionals with PGA Tour experience like Eric Booker, Tommy Valentine and LPGA player Elaine Crosby. Past PGA Club Professional Championship winners John Traub and Jeff Roth also were in the field.

Snider and the other female competitors played Boyne's Monument course from red tees at 5,650 yards. Hebert and the other non-seniors played from 6,785 yards. Snider admitted that some of the men in the tournament were less than enthusiastic about losing to a female.

"I can see how guys out here can get ticked-off at a 23-year-old female coming in here and taking some of their money. A couple of guys said some things to me, but I gave them a comment right back. I wasn't going to let them try and get into my head, she said. "It feels good to have played well all three days and show them that this was not a one-time deal."

Snider, began the round two-shots behind five-time Michigan Open champion and former Nationwide Tour player Scott Hebert, 34. Snider, who'd opened with rounds of 68-68, closed with a 71 to win the championship at 207 (-9), a shot better than Hebert.

"I now know what people mean when they say they are speechless," said Snider, fighting back tears moments after sinking a five-foot par putt to win. "When I made the putt, I didn't know what to do. Everything I've done in my career I've done myself and. It's just nice that it finally paid off."

As a high school player in Grandville, Snider won two state championships. Golf came naturally to her came when, as a young girl, her neighbors got her a job picking range balls at Maple Hills Golf Course in Grandville. She remembers how competitive she felt when she would battle her older brother Shawn and his even older friends in neighborhood games. Stacy hated to lose, whether it was basketball, softball or running or volleyball or even a card game.

"I wanted to beat them all," she said. "I want to beat my opponent. Any opponent. And I want to beat the golf course."

Could Snider then make the jump to the LPGA?

"Stacy Snider is the best female golfer ever to come out of the state of Michigan," said Ken Devine. "She has poise, she has guts and she can flat play."

"The game is in great shape, and I've learned some things about myself under pressure in the last year," she said before LPGA Qualifying events. "I'm going in with high expectations. I expect to make it."

Snider's big top blew down at the initial, stage-one qualifying tournament, August 26-29 at Plantation Golf Club in Venice, Florida. Snider tamed the Bobcat and Panther courses toothless with two middle rounds of 70 after opening with a 76. In position to finish high enough to advance easily, Snider coughed-up a final round hairball of 81 to finish the tournament at 9-over-par.

The golden gates opened up in California, for Snider, at Rancho Mirage, on Mission Hills Country Club's Arnold Palmer and Dinah Shore courses September 17 - 20. Snider shot 75-76-67-73-291 (+3). While the medallist in that event finished at 7-under, only five women broke par, and so Snider's score was good enough to advance to the final stage of LPGA Qualifying, Oct. 21-24 at LPGA International near Daytona Beach.

A 71 made the cut and sought 28 fully exempt LPGA Tour cards. Snider opened with 70, but a second-round 78 steered her off-course. Always tough and gritty, Snider came back with rounds of 72 and 71 to finish the qualifying tournament at 291 (+3), missing a playoff for the last fully exempt position by six strokes and finishing 11-strokes behind the medallist.

With non-exempt status, Snider will compete in LPGA events when possible in 2004 and play on The Futures Tour otherwise.

Snider attacks the golf ball with the punch of a prizefighter. Her flexibility is such that she can commit every ounce of her thin but solid physique to the shot. Like many natural predators, she is both menacing and graceful. The mean and tough manner in which she swings her driver can cause onlookers to involuntarily clench their jaws and grit their teeth.

"I swing at it pretty hard. I always try to kill it off of the tee," she has said. "When I get mad I slam one of my clubs into my bag and swing even harder."

Snider seems to slug the golf ball as might a boxer trying to deliver a knockout blow.

"I tee the ball pretty high so that I can hit it on the upswing. I check my alignment and my stance, and my swing thought is to bring it back in one piece, not pass parallel, and swing out toward the target," Snider explains. "The rest happens naturally. Right at contact I know if I've hit it solid, and I don't know how to describe it, but it feels great."

Michael Patrick Shiels, Contributor

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