Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 15, 2013

NRP Bluegrass Junior: What a finish

Harford hits monster putt; Martin wins boys’ division


The Independent

ASHLAND On the 30th anniversary of the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior, Haylee Harford produced one of the classic shots in tournament history.

The defending champion found herself in dire straits lining up a 50-foot putt on No. 18 at Bellefonte Country Club, her eight-shot lead after 13 holes Friday down to one.

Harford hit her approach shot over the 18th green and under a tree. Her subsequent chip shot, from bare ground, came up over the bank and rolled all the way to the opposite fringe.

Undaunted, the feisty 16-year-old from Leavittsburg, Ohio, knocked in the mammoth putt to save par and give her a wire-to-wire victory in the American Junior Golf Association tournament.

As the ball disappeared into the cup, below the flagstick, Harford took a couple of running steps toward the hole and raised her hand to her mouth.

Asked to describe what just happened, an emotional Harford responded, “I can’t.”

How about amazing?

“Definitely, I would call it that,” she said. “The Lord really blessed me with that last shot. I remember one of the girls asking if I wanted the pin in or out. I wasn’t thinking of making it. I just wanted to get it close and make nothing worse than bogey.”  

Harford finished the three-day event at 218, one shot better than Katie Page of Louisville.

Page, who also parred the final hole, kept pressure on the leader by making a long par putt from just off the green on No. 17. But Harford trumped her on the final hole.

“I’ve never made that big of a putt for that result,” Harford said. “Nothing like that.”

Adding to the drama down the stretch, their group which also included Paintsville’s Ale Walker, received a red-card warning for slow play midway through the round. Aware that the AJGA is a stickler regarding pace of play, the trio made an effort to speed things up.

Harford admitted to being a little bit worried, however.

“I didn’t know how close we were to getting a penalty,” she said. “It was just nerve-racking either way. Golf’s a hard game. You have to stay in it mentally.”

Harford was Ohio’s Division II state champion as a freshman. She made a verbal commitment to Furman but still has two years of high school remaining.

For now, she’s numb from the emotional win after surviving a quad-bogey eight on the 14th hole. The misadventure started when Harford hit her tee shot far right into water.

“My driver is usually straight,” she said. “I pushed it so bad. I was hoping the ball was in play. It wasn’t.”  

Walker, playing in her final NRP Bluegrass Junior, shot 2-over 72 to finish in third place — two shots behind Harford.

“Like I’ve said before, this is the favorite event on my schedule,” Walker said. “I’m sad this is my last time. Honestly, I wish the AJGA had these for college students.”

Her career at University of Kentucky begins this fall. UK coach Golda Borst was at BCC for all three rounds to follow Walker and another Kentucky signee, Anna Hack of Murray. Hack tied for 14th.

Walker received the tournament’s Cameron Weis Sportsmanship Award from Nick Carter, president and chief operating officer of Natural Resource Partners.

“It was special,” said Walker, who was among 20 finalists for the USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award.  

The boys’ division also was decided by a single shot. Patrick Martin of Birmingham, Ala., shot par in the final round for a 207 total to hold off strong-closing Nabeel Khan (Westerville, Ohio) and Cooper Musselman (Louisville).

Martin, 16, eagled No. 1 and turned in another solid round to win in his first open AJGA event.

“It means a lot,” he said. “This makes it a lot easier for the rest of the year to get into tournaments.”

Martin was accompanied at the NRP Bluegrass Junior by his mother.

“We took a chance in signing up for it,” Patrick said. “I really enjoyed my time here. I will try to come back.”

After encountering a “stressful” patch on holes 8-11, including two bogeys, he got back on track. A birdie down the stretch especially provided a boost.

“Once I birdied No. 14, the nerves were gone and I was ready to finish up,” Martin said.

Khan took advantage of excellent conditions to post Friday’s low round — 66 — and finish runner-up. Musselman’s 67 in the final round lifted him into third place, two shots behind Martin.

Grayson’s Ryan Gillum, tied for second entering Friday, shot 74 and finished in a tie for eighth. The performance exceeded his expectations coming into the tournament, which began with a boys’ field of 108 players from more than 20 states.

“It gives me confidence going into other tournaments this summer and eventually going into the next season of high school golf,” Gillum said. “I feel like I competed well against some of the top boys out there.”

Gillum shot 67 in the opening round, followed by a 72 on Thursday.

“It was a little bit of a struggle today,” he said. “I wasn’t hitting the ball as well. I was not getting up and down.”

Sinking a long birdie putt on No. 10 made him feel better.

“I thought I had momentum going my way, even thought I was five (shots) down,” Gillum said. “Hats off to Patrick. He played a great tournament.”

Wheelersburg’s Mitchell McFarland matched par for the second consecutive day to tie for 21st at 217. Ashland’s Nick Blankenship tied for 52nd.

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.


Text Only
Local Sports
  • Proposed plan a touchdown for Ashland, Central

    They’ll have to wait another year, but some major changes are on the horizon.

    April 15, 2014

  • Martin, Cannoy put pop on top of Boyd 12-2 win

    Boyd County’s softball bats are booming of late.

    April 14, 2014

  • Stock spiking for Raceland softball

    Raceland took a major step in trying to shift the balance of power in 63rd District softball.

    April 14, 2014

  • 0415eastSB0110.jpg Still chasing the Kittens

    East Carter entered Monday’s softball showdown with Ashland looking to show it’s a credible threat to the Kittens’ recent domination of the 16th Region.

    April 14, 2014 5 Photos

  • Local Sports in Brief: Bush, Porter Wendy's Heisman finalists

    Rose Hill Christian seniors David Bush and Myriah Porter have been named state finalists for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award.

    April 14, 2014

  • Paintsville tops Magoffin, 12-0

    Kash Daniel and Spencer Taylor combined to toss a one-hitter as Paintsville pounded Magoffin County, 12-0, on Monday night in the first of a two-game series between 57th District foes.

    April 14, 2014

  • AARON SNYDER: Kittens on prowl for SS

    The Monday Morning Shortstop didn't have to dodge any actual darts at Ashland Softball Complex, although there may be an enlarged picture of him riddled with holes somewhere close by.
    If the piercing looks thrown my way weren't enough to sway me, the Kittens did more than enough on the field the past two weeks to distance themselves from a No. 5 ranking in northeastern Kentucky.

    April 13, 2014

  • 0414bcclassic0539.jpg Raceland girls, Boyd boys win track Classic

    As Boyd County first-year track and field coach Chris Holbrook stood on the infield and watched a member of Raceland’s 4-by-400-meter relay team circle the track in the final girls’ event of Saturday’s Boyd County Classic, he commented aloud to no one in particular, “She’s not showing any signs of running out of gas.”
    The Lady Rams had just enough in the tank to fend off the Lady Lions’ late charge and lock down their third victory of the young season, edging host Boyd County by six points, 171-165.
    On the boys’ side, Boyd County cruised, beating second-place Rowan County 175-114. A Lions club that finished 10th in last spring’s Class 2A, Region 6 meet has won all three meets it’s participated in this season.

    April 13, 2014 4 Photos

  • Starns, Steward stellar in '13-14

    After compiling a 40-2 record against 16th Region opponents over the last two seasons, Fleming County left the rest of the area thoroughly convinced of its prowess on the basketball court.

    April 13, 2014

  • Thunder on a sunny day

    Greenup County did its best to pitch to Ashland slugger McKenzie Vanover in her first three trips to the plate Saturday afternoon.
    It didn’t work out so well.

    April 13, 2014