Harder Hall features top collegians, internationals

Moriya Jutanugarn during the Semifinals at the U. S. Women's Amateur Championship at Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington, Rhode Island.

The list of past champions of the Harder Hall is long and distinguished. The tournament still draws outstanding juniors, collegians and mid-amateurs to Harder Hall Country Club in Sebring, Fla., to compete for a spot on that list. Some things to keep in mind this week, during the second tournament on the Florida Orange Blossom Circuit:

Curtis Cup looms: The Great Britain & Ireland squad has yet to be selected, but five players already have been named to the U.S. squad (though none are in the Harder Hall field). That means three American amateurs still could land a trip to Scotland to try to win the Cup for an eighth consecutive time. With the remaining picks to come in late January, the beginning of the Orange Blossom Circuit would be a good time for an eleventh-hour push.

The only veteran of the 2010 match who is playing in Sebring is Holly Clyburn, who finished fourth at the Dixie Amateur on Jan. 2. Another across-the-pond player with loads of potential, and one who expressed extreme interest in a spot on the GB&I team this time a year ago, is Charley Hull. The 15-year-old plays out of Woburn Golf Club in England, and won last year’s Ione D. Jones/Doherty Championship. She was runner-up to Jaye Marie Green at last year’s South Atlantic Amateur (also known as the Sally).

Local gal: Now technically a California kid as a member of the dominant UCLA women’s golf team, the Orange Blossom Tour wouldn’t feel right without South Florida native Kyle Roig. She won the Harder Hall in 2010 when she beat Lexi Thompson in a playoff, and finished runner-up to Hull at last year’s Jones/Doherty. Roig played in three of four events with the Bruins in the fall, finishing a season-best 11th at the Rainbow Wahine in November.

Orange Blossom debut: Normally Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn compete in the majority of summer amateur and junior tournaments. Last year they even showed up in late March for the LPGA’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. But this year the sisters from Thailand are making the rounds in Florida long before that. Moriya finished runner-up at the Dixie Women’s Amateur, where Ariya was T-14. One has to wonder, isn’t the weather in Thailand far better than in Florida this time of year?

Defending champion: Kentucky junior Ashleigh Albrecht won this championship a year ago after opening with a course-record 63. When the spring season opened a few weeks later, she tied for medalist honors at the UCF Challenge. After a top-10 finish at the Dixie, Albrecht looks primed for another solid finish.

Mid-amateurs: The Harder Hall, quite conveniently sandwiched between the holiday season and the start of the spring term, draws a bevy of college and junior players. Mid-amateurs Martha Leach and Megan Stasi fall in among those players. The pair have won four of the past six U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs between them – Leach in 2009 and Stasi in 2006, ’07 and ’10 – and remain competitive in elite amateur events. Stasi earned a sponsor exemption into last year’s Kraft Nabisco but missed the cut.

Short shots: File Celine Boutier under the outstanding internationals category. She earned international wins at the 2010 Italian International Championship and Skandia Open, and is the reigning Annika International Champion. Duke is lucky to have snagged a verbal commitment from Boutier for fall 2012. ... If Nora Lucas looks familiar, it’s because she last showed up in headlines as the calm, cool, aviator shade-wearing caddie for U.S. Girls’ Junior quarterfinalist Summar Roachell. Lucas, a 21-year-old senior on the Illinois women’s golf team, won the Chicago Amateur in July. ... Latanna Stone, 10, is playing in her second Harder Hall after debuting at last year’s tournament, when she finished third in the fourth flight. Stone is a student of Charlotta Sorenstam’s, and has won more than 100 tournaments.

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