SEBRING – The 64th Harder Hall Women’s Invitational starts today and will run through Saturday. The Invitational has 16 states and 5 countries represented with players ranging in ages from 13 to 81 with 78 participants.
“There have been a lot of big names that have come through,” said Harder Hall pro Cody Brownell. “Everyone knows the prestige of this event. We are looking forward to competitive play for the rest of the week. The course is in good shape and we have had a lot of feedback from the competitors that it is in the best condition they have seen since they have been coming. We are looking forward to a great week.”
The field for the championship is smaller than usual. The Championship flight consists of 40 players and there are four rounds. There is a new division call the “Forever 49” which play from a different tee and they are all senior players with a handicap of 16.4 and under. Forever 49 will also play four rounds and consists of 20 players.
There is the Ben Roman division which has a handicap of 7.0 or higher and the event only runs three days with just 18 golfers. There are two young ladies in the Ben Roman flight that are 13 and 14. They are playing in that division only because their handicaps have not gotten low enough to play in the championship flight.
“This event has been a fixture in Sebring forever and the community is very supportive,” said tournament chairman Taffy Brower. “People come out and watch the girls play. We have a lot of spectators that come out to the 9th and 18th greens. This course has been here forever and it is a really good typical Florida golf course. There are some really good holes which is why it is a championship course. The entry chairman of the event, Carol Semple can’t be onsite but she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008. Semple took over running this event from Wilma Gilliland in 2005 but unfortunately we lost Wilma who ran the tournament from 1985 to 2005. Wilma passed away this past December and she was a fixture here and really kept this tournament going. We are also trying to keep the tournament alive. Things change and a lot of tournaments that go on now. It is hard to get different fields and we are doing our best and our hope is that more young people will come to play in this tournament.”
There are 26 players with handicaps of 0 and under. There are three past champions playing this year. Ashleigh Albrecht-Hatton won in 2011 and holds the course record for this championship. Meghan Stasi won in 2014 and Emmy Martin won in 2017. Last years champion, Yujeong Son will not be defending this year.
“The course is in excellent shape and the weather is going to be beautiful this year,” said Brower. “This is an amateur event and it always will be. This is a stepping stone for those that want to turn professional. This is an international championship and because of that they earn a lot of WAGR (Women’s Amateur Golf Registry) points for the World Amateur Golf rankings.”
Some of the past champions of this prestigious tournament include Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel, Charley Hull, Meghan Stasi, Nelly Korda and Jessica Porvasnik.
“I will be participating in the forever 49 division and I am actually the oldest player in that division,” Brower said. “I have been participating since 1978. I believe I have only missed this event twice. I always look forward to starting the year at Harder Hall. Tradition is what brings me back year after year. It is very important and we have a lot of golf history here. This is something that myself and the committee are working hard to keep it going. The young people have so much to play in and it is very difficult to get participants so we have to figure out new ways to entice them.”
The 64th Harder Hall Women’s Invitational tees off at 8 a.m. today and runs through Saturday. The public is welcome to watch at no charge.