Hardee becomes eight two-time winner of George Holliday Memorial Junior

ablondin@thesunnews.comNovember 24, 2012 

— At this rate, Jonathan Hardee can consider assigning hardware earned at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club to its own section of his trophy case.

The 16-year-old junior at Riverside High in Greer won the 44th annual George Holliday Memorial Junior tournament Saturday for his third title at the club since last Thanksgiving.

Hardee shot a 2-under-par 70 Saturday on the West Course for a 1-under 215 total and two-stroke win over Clayton Forren of Rustburg, Va.

He becomes the eighth two-time Holliday winner, and just the third player to win it in consecutive years, joining Matthew Nesmith of North Augusta in 2009-10 and former Coastal Carolina player Tripp McAllister of Lake City in 2005-06.

Hardee also won the 2012 Myrtle Beach Junior Shootout at Myrtle Beach National around Easter, which is sort of the Holliday’s sister tournament. “I like it down here,” Hardee said. “I like it a lot, for sure. This time of year, the golf courses are just always really good here.

“It’s fun to come down and bring a few of the guys down and we all have Thanksgiving dinner. It’s just fun to be around the family for a week. I think that’s kind of helpful to just kind of relax and really have a good time for the week.”

Reona Hirai of Summerville shot an even-par 72 on the Southcreek Course on Saturday to win the girls division by a shot over Kelli Murphy of Elgin with a 6-over 222.

Hardee took a one-stroke lead into the final round and was tied after Jackson Spires of Fayetteville, N.C., birdied the opening hole. Hardee regained his one-shot lead with an 8-foot birdie putt on the second hole, birdied the 10th and bogeyed the 15th to remain 1 under for the round, and added a birdie on the par-5 17th with a 6-iron to the green and two-putt. A par on 18 gave him the two-stroke win.

“I had kind of an off summer – I played alright in a few tournaments – but I’m just starting to play really well here in the past couple weeks,” Hardee said. “It just seems every year at this time of year I play really well. I’m not sure what it is.”

It might have something to do with the Holliday being held at Myrtle Beach National’s three courses. The King’s North Course is part of the three-day rotation. Hardee is in his fifth year playing the event, and he won other trophies for top-three finishes in age divisions through his first three years.

He won last year with a 6-under 210 total. “I think it was a little bit warmer [last year],” Hardee said. “… It was a little bit more windy this year. I think I played just as well this year, I think the weather conditions were just tougher.”

During the 2012 high school season last spring for Class AAAA Riverside, Hardee won his region and county championships and finished fourth at the state championship. He also finished second in the Junior Jones Cup in Sea Island, Ga., a prestigious national event last December.

Aynor High senior Johnson Holliday tied for third in the boys division with a 77-72-73—222, which is his best score and finish in several years in the event. He would have been the second cousin of tournament namesake George Holliday, a standout golfer at Wofford at the time of his death in a car accident in 1967.

“My dad has always told me, ‘You need to get ready for the George Holliday and try to play your best there,’ ” said Holliday, who has not committed to a college next year. “I’ve always challenged myself to see if I can shoot better than I usually do. Today I could have gone real low if I just putted well. That’s what I came out here to do.”

Like Holliday, Hirai, 16, has been participating in the Holliday for a handful of years. “Every time I feel like I’m improving maybe on each course,” she said. “I think this time everything went well for me. My hitting was great and my putting was real good.”

Hirai trailed defending champion Jessica Provasnik of Hinckley, Ohio, by a stroke entering the final round, in which Provasnik carded a 78. Hirai was 2 under through 16 holes and had a three-stroke lead, which allowed her to survive a double bogey on the 364-yard par-4 18th, which was playing into the wind. Hirai nearly hit her second shot out of bounds on 18, then chipped up and three-putted.

Murphy birdied the 17th to pull within two strokes, but was unable to make a 7-foot downhill sliding par putt on the 18th that could have forced a playoff.

Hirai is a junior on the boys and girls golf teams at Pinewood Prep and has led the girls to three state SCISSA team titles. The boys have won four of the past five state titles. She’s coming off recent individual titles in the Players Championship in Hartsville and Fall Challenge in Cheraw.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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