EAST LANSING – It’s not unusual for siblings to grow up playing sports together.
But redshirt freshman Caroline Harding and her sister, freshman Priscilla Harding, know they are quite unusual, with the rare opportunity to play on the same college golf team. The Harding sisters are part of the Michigan State golf team, but in reality, they’re simply carrying on their family’s Spartan legacy on the links.
Their father, Tom Harding, was a three-year letterwinner for MSU golf for MSU in the mid-80s..
“They always said, ‘Dad, we want to play at Michigan State’,” Tom said. “And I said, ‘You got to work hard to do it’. They were good kids about it. They just never gave up and they still work hard.”
Now he gets to watch his daughters carry the family tradition.
“He’s been a real support system for anything I have really wanted to do,” Caroline said.
The Harding golf legacy did not start as expected.
Tom came to Michigan State as a preferred walk-on for baseball, but was cut during tryouts.
He asked the golf coach if he could try-out, but was too late for the season. He practiced his golf game and made the team his sophomore year. After graduation, he played in the 1998 and 2003 Buick Open.
His wife, Joal Harding, also was a standout golfer. She played at Auburn University and competed the LPGA tour for a few years before back trouble ended her professional career. According to Tom, the family the golf linage even goes back to Tom’s mother, who won the club championship about 20 times at her local country club in Kalamazoo.
In 2014, Caroline and Priscilla received All-State honors at South Lyon High School. Priscilla was awarded All-State honors again in 2015. Together, they led the Lions to a runner up finish in the MHSAA Division 2.
There is another Harding sister, Elizabeth, at South Lyon High School. In two years, the family expects her to play for MSU, solidifying the family tradition.
Caroline said they’ve have been golfing since they could walk, however they never considered serious competition until their feshman year of high school.
Now that the sisters are on MSU golf team, there is opportunity for family competition and friction. But because they have played together their whole lives, Priscilla said playing with her older sister is comforting - not confrontational.
“We aren’t the typical siblings that are at each other’s throats,” Priscilla said. “I think we are equally as encouraging.”
Even though Priscilla is a year younger, she said the drive to beat her older sister is there, but not very intense. Her big sister agrees.
“Since I’m the oldest, of course you want to beat the younger sister, but I think it’s healthy competition,” Caroline said.
Tom said they will be cheering for each other, no matter what happens on the course.
“Surprisingly they are almost too nice,” Tom said. “It’s unusual, they’re really comfortable with what they do and they focus on their own game and they all cheer for each other. They’re better human beings then they are golfers. They’re absolute class daughters. I couldn’t be more lucky.”
The sisters have made one appearance for MSU women’s golf this season. Caroline had a three-round score of 246, Priscilla scored slightly better at 244.