Harder Hall Invitational: Schepperle cruises to win

SEBRING, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2009) -- The New Year has been quite good to Auburn's Candace Schepperle so far.

The Alabama native won her second-straight amateur major Saturday, taking home the first event of the Orange Blossom Tour by an impressive margin.

Taking advantage of optimum scoring conditions, Schepperle coasted to a seven-stroke victory after posting a course-record 7-under-par 65 and a –13 total for the tournament, held at the Harder Hall Country Club.

With a seven shot lead at the turn, Schepperle said she wanted to remain aggressive throughout the back nine.

“I had my own goals for the round and I wanted to stay in the moment until the tournament was complete," she said. "I’m very excited to win this title and look forward to coming back next year to defend.”

Amelia Lewis (70) and Cindy LaCrosse (68) tied for second place with -6 totals for the 72 hole event.

For full results click on the link at the bottom of this story.

The Harder Hall Invitational marked the start of the Orange Blossom Tour, which comprises four early-season women’s golf events in Southern Florida.

The tour is comprised of the Harder Hall Invitational (Jan. 7-10), South Atlantic Amateur (The Sally, Jan. 14-17), the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Women’s Amateur (Jan. 19-24) and the Women’s International Four Ball (Jan. 26-30).

The circuit serves as an early proving ground for the Curtis Cup on even-numbered years, and perennially provides an early look at some of the top women’s amateurs in the country.

At last year’s Harder Hall Invitational Alison Walshe trailed by a stroke heading into the final round then made her move at precisely the right time, firing her second-straight 68 to finish at 281, three strokes better than second-place finisher Taylore Karle, who entered the day with a one-stroke lead.

Walshe, a native of Galway, Ireland who attended Westford Academy in Massachusetts and is recently graduated from Arizona State, ended up placing second in the amateurgolf.com - Bridgestone Golf Women’s Player of the Year race.

Taking third place was two-time amateurgolf.com - Bridgestone Golf Player Rankings champ Stacy Lewis of The Woodlands. Both have since turned professional, with Lewis earning her Tour Card after grabbing medalist honors at the 2008 Q School.

The Women’s South Atlantic Amateur known as The Sally, has been around since 1926 and last year was won by the best women’s golfer from across the pond, England's Liz Bennett. Bennett, who was a Curtis Cupper and won the English Order of Merit as top women’s am in the country, carried a two-stroke lead into the final round and finished with an even-par 72, good for a 1-under 287, topping Florida freshman Jessica Yadloczky by two strokes.

The Jones/Doherty Women’s Amateur is the first match play event (32 players following an 18-hole qualifier) and last year had quite a bit of familial intrigue.

Isabelle Lendl had to defeat a pair of siblings at the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Championship, held at the Coral Ridge Country Club, before topping future Curtis Cupper and two-time U.S. Mid-Am champ Meghan Bolger 1-up in the championship match.

Lendl, the daughter of tennis great Ivan Lendl, first topped her younger sister Daniela (who is the reigning Doherty champ) before taking on older sister Marika in the semifinals. Isabelle prevailed 4 & 2 in both matches.

She beat Michele Thompson of Scotland in the quartefinals 2 & 1.

In the senior flight, Carol Semple Thompson beat Ann Fulginiti 3 & 2.

The Women’s International Four-Ball is the final, and only team event of the tour, which starts with best-ball stroke play and moves on to best-ball match play.

Last year finished off a frustrating tour for Bolger, who was the runner-up again in this event after her and teammate Jill Hardy fell in 20 holes to Kelly Calkin and Kristy McLaughlin at the Orangebrook Golf and Country Club.

Calkin had won The Sally in 2007.

ABOUT THE Harder Hall Invitational

The Harder Hall Women’s Invitational was first played in 1956 in Sebring, Florida. Harder Hall was a grand old hotel with a wonderful Dick Wilson golf course. The Tournament was started by Harder Hall Head Professional Ben Roman to draw women amateur golfers to Sebring. The hotel was closed in the 1980s but the Tournament has continued and thrived. 

Harder Hall is a four-day no cut stroke play Tournament for women amateurs.  It draws an international field and has two Divisions. The Championship Division handicaps are capped at 16.4 and the Ben Roman Division includes handicaps from 7.0 to 24.4. It is the first of four "Orange Blossom" Florida winter tournaments.

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