BELMONT, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State golfer Valery Plata had herself quite the week at the Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club.
On top of being the only amateur in the field, Plata made the weekend cut on Friday, and played in front of her family, that flew in from Colombia to see her compete in her first LPGA Tour event.
If that wasn’t enough for Plata, who has two more years of eligibility at MSU, she got to learn from the best in the game. Literally.
In the final round of the tournament, she was paired with South Korea’s Jin Young Ko, who is the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world.
“It was pretty unreal,” Plata said. “I couldn’t get a hold of it when we teed-off, but then I was like ‘Wow, she is really good and there’s a reason why she is No. 1 in the world.’ I got to learn a lot from her and, from my game, compare with her. It’s just a blast.”
“Valery plays at a really high level. She’s one of the top 60 players in the world, on the amateur ranks,” MSU golf coach, Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. “She really had an opportunity to observe, over the past four days, what she needs to do to take her game to this level.”
“Valery is like a little sponge,” Slobodnik-Stoll added. “She observes and is always noticing everything. So she certainly, I know, learned a lot from this experience.”
Plata would end the final round at -1, after birding her final hole of the day, and finish the tournament at -4.
As a sophomore (2019-20) at MSU, Plata was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and named to the All-Big Ten First Team. It’s her success and time as a Spartan that played a big role in her success at the Meijer LPGA Classic.
“We get to play with pretty good players all year round, and I know it’s just a matter of time for them to be here, and me eventually, hopefully, be here,” Plata said.
“She believes in herself and knows she’s good enough to make the cut,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “Even though she’s playing with the best professionals in the world, she really is an incredible player herself.”
Another Spartan, who was a part of the field, former MSU golfer Sarah Burnham, who made her LPGA Tour debut in 2018 at the Meijer LPGA Classic, shot a -4 in the final round and finished the tournament at -9.
“I think I played solid overall,” Burnham said. “It was a pretty gettable course this week, so a lot of scores were low, but I’m happy with how I’m hitting it.”
Just like Plata, Burnham learned a lot from her time playing in the Meijer LPGA Classic as an amateur, back in 2018, and knows this experience will make Plata’s transition from amateur to pro a little easier.
“I was really nervous as an amateur and any experience can help you grow and get better as a golfer,” Burnham said.
Burnham will head to Atlanta next week to compete in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at The Highlands Course.