In Play with Tom Markowski

Hardings of South Lyon struggle in first round of Women's Open, Brighton grad Pietila of Brighton first round leader

Golf   | Tom Markowski

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Thompsonville – There was a significant Green and White theme taking place Monday at the 22nd Michigan Women’s Open at Chrystal Mountain Resort.

Approximately 20 Michigan State alums, coaches, players and soon-to-be players were among the field of 112 in the 54-hole event.

But not all days on a golf course are good days and the opening round was a difficult one to swallow for the Harding family.

Tom Harding is a PGA teaching professional with the Kendall Academy at Mile of Golf in Ypsilanti. Harding played at MSU and has four Michigan majors to his credit including the Michigan PGA and the Tournament of Champions. Harding’s game has slipped considerably recently as he has shifted his priorities to teaching the game to his three daughters, Caroline, Priscilla and Elizabeth, all of whom are among the 59 amateurs competing this week.

Priscilla Harding, who will be a senior at South Lyon, shot 7-over par 79 on the Mountain Ridge course, four strokes better than her older sister, Caroline, who graduated from South Lyon a few weeks ago. Caroline will attend Michigan State this fall and play for coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, who is also in the field. Elizabeth Harding, who will be a sophomore at South Lyon, shot 92.

Priscilla, 16, committed to MSU this past winter.

Emmie Pietila, a 2013 graduate of Brighton who will be a junior at Tennessee, is the first-round leader after carding an 8-under 64, eclipsing her previous best by five strokes.

The 64 is two strokes off the course record set last year by Kimberly Dinh of Midland (University of Wisconsin).

Breanne Hall, who graduated from East Kentwood, was the lone amateur to win this event and that came in 2003.

Sarah Hoffman of Saline who graduated from Grand Valley State in ’14, is second at 6 under. Kendall Martindale (Jefferson City, TN) is the low professional at 5 under. This is Martindale’s first professional tournament. She graduated from Vanderbilt this spring.    

“We’re doing the Tom Izzo thing,” Tom Harding said. “We’re trying to play the toughest competition. (There are) a lot of growing pains.”

The Hardings have had little experience playing the Mountain Ridge course; Priscilla’s practice round on Sunday was her first. The mountain creates many misreads on the greens for the players, particularly for those lacking course knowledge.

Priscilla made par to begin her round and made birdie on Nos. 4 and 5, and was 2-under after six. She was pumped up after sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 5

But Priscilla made double bogey on back-to-back holes and was 2-over at the turn. She made birdie on the par 5 18th to finish her round on a good note.

Disappointed with her overall play, Priscilla was able to maintain a positive attitude and remember the purpose of competing in such a high level event.

“It really helps to play with good players,” she said. “It was the first time I really looked forward to a tournament.

“The support group I have is wonderful. The support group and my family are big for me.”

Priscilla placed in a tie for 10th last fall at the Division 2 championship held at Forest Akers West Golf Course at MSU. Caroline finished third individually and, as a team, South Lyon placed second, the best finish in school history.

“(Caroline) got off to a horrible start,” Tom Harding said. “She should be here. Two weeks ago she won two Adams (Junior Golf) Tour events. Its one day. We’ll come back tomorrow.”

Caroline entered this week ranked No. 1 on the Adams Tour ahead of Sarah White (East Kentwood) who will play at Western Michigan in the fall. Priscilla sits at No. 15.

The tournament continues Tuesday with a 36-hole cut. The final round is slated for Wednesday.