In the cold, Yujeong Son stays hot with Harder Hall Win
Yujeong Son's win at the Harder Hall was her third in three weeks
Yujeong Son's win at the Harder Hall was her third in three weeks

SEBRING, FL (January 6, 2018) ­– Trust the local when she tells you the week of the Harder Hall Invitational is inevitably the coldest it ever gets in these parts. LSU freshman Kendall Griffin, who lives seven minutes from the site of the longtime winter women’s amateur event, has played this tournament for the past nine years and knows that it’s going to require an extra layer (or three).

Two things happened in the 2018 event that were worth noting from Griffin’s perspective: the first round was frozen out (it’s believed to be the first time in tournament history that any round has been cancelled for weather) and Griffin played her way into the final group on Saturday.

“I honestly was just hoping for top 3 or top 5,” said Griffin, who trailed by eight at the start of the final round, cut it to five by No. 15 but ended up tying for runner-up six shots behind winner Yujeong Son.

On the morning of the first round Jan. 3, even the range balls had frost on them. It’s ironic because Sebring is only 20 miles south of another small town called Frostproof, which has a population of less than 3,000. Son had played 11 holes and Griffin nine when the horn blew that day, but some players who had an afternoon tee time never even arrived at the course.

“I don’t think I’ve played in worse conditions, it was so bad,” said Son, a native of South Korea who now lives in windy Norman, Okla. She admitted that knowing how to play in that kind of wind and weather helped in Sebring.

Son recovered gracefully from a few straying shots on Saturday, which is something even her opponents noticed. Griffin, who ran up against Son in the quarterfinals of the 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior (Son won, 5 and 4), complimented her scrambling abilities post-round. Son finished 54 holes at even par.

Son’s father, Youngjin, has gotten in the habit of walking ahead of his daughter to help spot those balls. One of the ways Son can tell she is improving is that there are fewer wild shots.

“I used to hit it everywhere,” she said.

In its 63-year history, the Harder Hall has served up some brutally cold weather. Yet on a Curtis Cup year, like this, it has historically been an important stop for players looking for a spot on the U.S. team. Unfortunately for the Americans, Son does not have U.S. citizenship so she can’t be considered.

“We didn’t think we were going to stay this long and didn’t apply for citizenship,” Son said of her family’s relocation to Oklahoma 10 years ago. “Golf is really what’s making us stay.”

Son, who won the Dixie Women’s Amateur and the Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Memorial in New Orleans in the two weeks before teeing it up at the Harder Hall, is simply working her way through the winter amateur circuit to improve her game. She will play the AJGA’s Annika Invitational next week, then it’s back to Norman (where Son is home-schooled).

With her Harder Hall title, Son joins a long list of past champions who have gone on to LPGA career. It’s exactly what Son wants to do. She plans to bypass college in favor of the highest level of golf, only she isn’t quite sure when she will make that move.

Son has designs on qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open for the first time this year, and she hopes she’ll qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, too. She made it to the first round of match play in that event last year. The next big start for Son will be in February when she travels to Singapore for the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, the inaugural women’s event that’s attached to the Asia-Pacific Amateur (the men’s version came online in 2015). A victory there would carry important spoils for an aspiring pro like Son: exemptions into the Ricoh Women’s British Open, ANA Inspiration (both LPGA majors) and the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

“Winning these past couple of tournaments has really given me confidence in my game and makes me feel that even if I don’t hit it as good, I can get it up and down,” she said.

It seems like a good time to take that to the world stage.

View results for Citrus Golf Trail Ladies Invitational

ABOUT THE Citrus Golf Trail Ladies Invitational

Formerly known as the Harder Hall Invitational, this is a four-day no cut stroke play tournament for women amateurs. It was played at Harder Hall CC for more than 65 years, but in 2021 it moves to a rotation of courses on the Citrus Golf Trail in Sebring, Florida. The illustrious list of past champions includes the current world #1 Nelly Korda; Hall-of- Famer Joanne Carner; LPGA stars Christie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel, Stacy Lewis and Charley Hull; amateur legends Carol Semple Thompson and Meghan Stasi; and two members of the winning 2021 Curtis Cup Team, Emilia Migliaccio and Gina Kim. It has long drawn an international field and has two Divisions: the Championship Division and the Forever 49 Division (max index 16.4). It is the first of the "Orange Blossom" series of Florida winter tournaments.

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