Pietila leads at Harder Invite

Highlands Today

SEBRING - Hannah Pietila lit up a gray and rainy day with a sizzling 5-under 67 to take the lead at the midway point of the 59th Harder Hall Women's Invitational on Thursday.

Pietila, who shot a 76 in Wednesday's first round, has a two-day total of 143, while Meghan Stasi of Oakland Park carded an even par 72 on Thursday and is alone in second place at 145.

Pietila, who is a freshman at the University of Tennessee, had nines of 35-32 in her impressive round which included five birdies over the soggy and demanding Harder Hall course.

Kristina Merkle is alone in third place at 147, while India Clyburn of the United Kingdom, Lauren Whyte of Scotland and Chloe Louise Williams are tied at 149.

Pietila is from Brighton, Mich., and the 18-year-old is familiar with the Harder Hall course after finishing fifth in this prestigious tournament in 2013.

Laura Hendee and Emmy Martin are at 150, Tara Joy-Connelly is alone at 151 and Elidh Briggs, Samantha Fuller and first-round leader Shelby Martinek are tied at 152.

The four-day tournament runs through Saturday and with the weather supposedly improving, some low scores can be expected by the 134 competitors in the international field.

Hally Leadbetter from Bradenton followed up an opening round 75 with a 78 for a 153 total in the less than ideal conditions.

Past champions of the Harder Hall Women's invitational include Stacy Lewis and Christie Kerr, who were both ranked as the No. 1 player in the world at one time in their illustrious careers.

"Everyone enjoys playing in this tournament," said Harder Hall Invitational tournament director Carol Semple Thompson, who is a three-time winner of this event and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. "Everyone likes the course and the timing is perfect."

Tee times for today's third round begin at 8 a.m.

Spectators are encouraged to come out and watch some excellent golf free of charge.