John F. Kennedy's Haylee Harford had as good a freshman season on the Eagles' golf team as possible.
She led her team to a strong season as a group and individually, she captured the Division II individual state championship at The Ohio State University's Gray Course, rolling to a seven-shot victory.
Harford will be looking to capture an even bigger prize starting Monday, when she will be competing in the U.S. Girls Junior Championship, which will be held at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
JFK’s Haylee Harford, 15, watches her drive from the No. 12 (par 4) tee box during a practice round in Oct. at Candywood Golf Course in Vienna.
"I've been trying for this tournament for three years; I've been the first alternate," Harford said. "This is the first time I've ever made it in. I'm really excited and looking forward to it. It will be a good experience. I've never been to California. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Kennedy coach Tom Rider said while Harford may be feeling some jitters, her big-tournament experience should serve her well.
"I think she'll do all right. She's been in a lot of big tournaments," he said. "This is her first USGA (United States Golf Association) tournament. She's probably nervous. She'll be going to California, which is a big trip. I think she'll do fine."
The tournament will begin with 156 players from all over the country. There will be two rounds of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday, after which the field will be pared down to 64. The competition will then revert to match play until a champion is crowned on Saturday, July 21.
Harford earned her way into the field by finishing in the top three in a qualifying event on June 20. She shot a 74 at Prestwick Country Club in Canton to place second.
Lake Merced Golf Club is a par 72, 6,863-yard course that hosted the 2009 NCAA Western Regional and the 2009 California State Amateur Championship.
"It's going to be a really nice course and it's going to be tough," Harford said. "I'm just trying to go and do the best I can. It's my first time so I'm going to play best I can. I have to focus and play my own game."
Rider said Harford should be able to make the necessary adjustments needed to play on a course that will be managed by the same organization that sets up the always difficult U.S. Open tournament that confounds the best male professional players.
"Anything USGA is going to be pretty difficult, according to the people who play on it," Rider said. It will be a good test.
"The length will be set back a little bit compared to what she's used to, but this girl can flat-out play golf."
After competing in the U.S. Girls Junior, Harford will then focus on Kennedy's season that begins in the middle of August.
"We're going to be a young team," she said. "We lost some seniors so we're going to be all sophomores and one freshman. We're going to have a growing experience to do so hopefully we'll improve throughout the year."
"We'll have five sophomores and one freshman," Rider said. "She's far above the rest of them. The rest will get better but we'll have a hard road to hoe this year."