Hardys Are No Ordinary Couple September 25, 2010 By Scott Paske

Husband Jim Hardy provides wife Marilyn a sight line during the 2006 championship. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)

Wichita, Kan. -- Marilyn Hardy had the type of finish to Sunday's qualifying round at the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Championship that golfers dread.

It took the Houston resident four strokes to cover the final 10 yards of Wichita Country Club's par-5 ninth hole after she mishit a flop shot and sent it sailing over the green.

The resulting double bogey capped a 9-over-par 81, six shots higher than her previous round in stroke-play qualifying, but still good enough to earn Hardy one of 64 berths in the match-play portion of the championship, which begins Monday.

Hardy went from the ninth green to the scoring tent to a nearby chipping green after Sunday's round, where her husband and caddie, Jim, waited with her bag for some post-round practice.

Spouses as caddies are nothing new at USGA championships, or any other competitive venue for that matter. But Marilyn Hardy's caddie happens to be one of the game's most highly regarded golf instructors.

"Once in a while, we have our little spats," said Marilyn Hardy, who is playing in her 19th Women's Mid-Am. "But they don't last long. We get along great."

Their relationship began in the mid-1980s when Marilyn, a former college basketball and volleyball player at UC Irvine, started playing golf.

"She came to me for a lesson years ago," said Jim Hardy, who has appeared on Golf Magazine and Golf Digest's lists of top teachers. "I took one look at her and said, 'Wow.' "

Hardy's student was a fast learner. Within a few years, Marilyn won the Phoenix women's amateur title, advanced to the semifinals of the 1987 U.S. Women's Mid-Am at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., and captured the 1988 Arizona State Amateur crown.

"Everybody gets younger and I get older," Marilyn Hardy, 49, joked about today's differences in the Women's Mid-Am from her early playing days. "It just seems like through the years, it's gotten more competitive and better from top to bottom."

It helps Hardy to have her husband, a former PGA Tour player, there to help navigate through the challenges of a round. While Jim Hardy is noted for teaching a two-plane swing theory and has worked with the likes of Peter Jacobsen, Brad Faxon, Mark O'Meara and Bob Tway, his role as a caddie for his wife is less technical.

"I'm more about getting the right yardage and talking about the right club," Jim Hardy said. "She likes to have me make sure she's aiming correctly and then I step away.

"Outside of that, I'm there more as an attitude checker. Marilyn can get down on herself and play far worse than her ability. We have a couple phrases: Are you a champion golfer or are you a fellow competitor? Too often she's just a fellow competitor with unbelievable skills."

Marilyn Hardy had a second short-game hiccup Sunday at the par-3 17th, where she made a triple bogey. But now in her second year as the boys and girls golf coach at Houston's Northland Christian School, Hardy understands the importance of forgetting about it quickly, with some help from her husband.

"He calms me down and gives me a relaxed mental attitude," she said. "It's nice to have him on the bag."

Scott Paske is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship sites.