A thrilling victory
Mark Pinson | Highlands TodaySEBRING - Erica Popson made a 10-foot birdie putt on the last hole to win the 58th Harder Hall Women's Invitational by one shot over 13-year-old Mika Liu on Sunday.
Published: January 8, 2013
Published: January 8, 2013
Popson, a senior on the University of Tennessee women's golf team, finished at 6-under-par 282 for four rounds, while Liu came in at 5-under 283. Kelsey MacDonald was third at 285, Ashlan Ramsey was fourth at 286, Hannah Pietila came in fifth with a 287 and JiaXin Yang was sixth at 288.
"It means a lot to win this tournament," Popson said. "I got to meet Carole Semple Thompson two years ago at this tournament and I got to play with her twice. "Just to be able to have my name on the same trophy as her is an honor."
Thompson, who is the Harder Hall Women's Invitational Director, is a three-time champion of this coveted event. Semple Thompson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame into 2008.
Popson, who started the final round two shots back of Liu, had nines of 35-33, and the Volunteer linkster came through in the clutch with birdies on the last two holes.
Liu, who shot a final round 71, didn't back down, making a birdie on No. 17, and the talented teenager drained a 17-footer for birdie on the 18th hole, forcing Popson to make her putt or head to a playoff.
Popson stepped up and calmly drained the pressure-packed 10-footer to win the prestigious tournament.
"Before Mika even putted, I told myself I had to make my putt for the win," Popson said. "I missed two short putts on 15 and 16 and that made the last putt a little nerve-racking.
"I'm glad it went in. I've had this putter for a week and a half and I think I'm going to keep it a little longer."
Liu, an eighth grader at St. Stephens Episcopal Academy in Bradenton, gained a lot of confidence through her stellar play against older, more experienced players.
"Playing against Erica, the second-ranked amateur in the world, I felt like I learned to control my emotions under pressure," Liu said. "I was able to stay calm and have a silent mind for the next shot.
"This was the first time I played in this tournament; I really like the course and I would love to come back and play again."
Pietila, an 18-year-old high school senior from Brighton, Mich., was a shot back entering the final 18 holes, but struggled off the tee in a final round 74.
"I didn't drive the ball well today," said Pietila. "A couple of putts didn't fall and it just kind of added up really quick. "Erica played really well and it lifts your game to play with such talented players.
"I like this course, the par 5s are reachable in two shots, the par 4s aren't very long and it gives you a lot of birdie chances."
In the First Flight, Betsie Johnson finished first with a four-day total of 302, Ali Cowan placed second at 306 and Emmie Pietila and Annie Dulman tied for third at 307.
India Clyburn won the Second Flight with a score of 315, Emily Rymer was second at 319 and Alessandra Kutz came in third with a 321.
Diane Lang finished first in the Third Flight with a 289 total, Avon Park's Paige Moffat was second at 291 and Maria Marino was third with a 296.
In the Fourth Flight, Georgia Gilling and Chandler Case tied for first with a 304 total and Briana Midkiff was third at 308.
The Marge Burns Flight was won by Nancy Jackson at 276, Pat Gelardi-Hughes was second with a 286 and Clate Aydlett finished third with a 289.
Babs McIntosh won the Tish Preuss Flight with a score of 299, Sandra Miller was second at 306 and Judy McCarty finished third with a 310.
In the Lancy Smith Flight, Beverly Cassels and Margaret Leigh tied for first with a score of 334 and Nancy Newberry was third at 335.
One of the highlights of the Invitational, was a hole-in-one on the 12th hole on Sunday by Kendall Griffin, a talented 13-year-old from Sebring.
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