Each year, the storied tradition of the Harlan Invitational Golf Tournament adds yet another chapter to its lore. Last year, it was Hazard’s Cameron Bailey, who has played in the Harlan Invitational since his teenage years, capturing the tournament championship for the first time after rain shortened the event to 27 holes.
“Annually, it means so much to the Harlan Country Club, its Board of Trustees, and the Tournament Committee to have so many past champions come back to compete. Cameron Bailey was sensational last year and added his name to a distinguished list of past champions. It’s an honor for us to welcome him back as well as the other past winners and newcomers that will challenge him, with the hopes of creating yet another spectacular Sunday scene for the folks that attend,” said Harlan Country Club Public Relations Director and tournament committee member Eugene Farmer.
This year, Bailey is back to defend, and he’ll be joined by at least four other past champions, creating yet another stellar field at this year’s 73rd Annual Harlan Invitational. Included in that list is Pineville’s Matt Gann, who already has two tournament victories this season at Cedar Hill Country Club in Jonesville, Va., and last weekend’s Mountain Laurel Tournament at his home course, Wasioto Winds in Pineville. Gann also won the Kentucky State Amateur Qualifier at Eagles Nest Country Club in Somerset by an overwhelming ten strokes.
Harlan’s own Andrew Forester will be in the field again. Forester has won the event multiple times and contends annually. He has career tournament victories at Harlan, Hazard, Middlesboro, Corbin, Cumberland and Lynch.
“Andrew is perhaps the truest talent of the modern era in Harlan County. His pinpoint accuracy and sound fundamental approach makes him a threat to win each and every year,” Farmer added.
After a one year absence last year, 2012 winner Kevin Burns from London is back in the field looking for his second Harlan Invitational victory. Burns captivated the hearts of the audience on that dramatic Sunday in 2012, winning the tournament for the first time in his 25th attempt.
“Kevin Burns has always been a crowd favorite in this tournament and his victory in 2012 brought tears to a lot of eyes because he had been so close several times. He embraces the crowd and his workman-like attitude makes him really tough to beat. We were saddened and disappointed that he was unable to come back and defend his title last year. But we knew that his love for this tournament would bring him back, and we’re thankful that it’s this year,” added Farmer.
Also back in the field this year is Luke Minor Jr., son of former Harlan Country Club Professional Luther Minor. Minor, a former standout at James A. Cawood High School as well as the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, resides in Duffield, Va., and annually returns to his Harlan County roots for a shot at yet another Invitational Championship.
Finally, past champion and local prodigy Pete Cornett, Jr. is back in this year’s field looking to add to his legend at Harlan Country Club. Cornett is a former high school standout from Cumberland High School and Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia.
“Luke and Pete are two guys that have storied careers dating back to their early youth. They both have a wealth of local course knowledge and both have pure, technical golf swings. Each year, we expect Luke and Pete to be in the final two groups on Sunday with a chance to win coming down the stretch. Both are super talented individuals,” Farmer said.
The tourney will have five flights beginning around 7 a.m. on Saturday. Qualifying for the event will take place throughout the day on Friday.
For more information on entering the event, contact the Harlan Country Club at 573-2510.