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The sisters of swing

Pikeville siblings are piling up honors on the golf course

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Accomplished junior golfer Ella June Hannant has not only resumed her par-busting tear but is now starring in a sisters show in the sport.

A Drive Chip and Putt national champion in 2018, the crowning 2019 achievement thus far for the 9-year-old (she’ll be 10 in September) is reigning as the U.S. Kids Golf World Champion in the girls age 9 division.

Ella June claimed that distinction last weekend at the Longleaf Golf and Family Club in Pinehurst, posting a score of 4-under-par 104 for three nine-hole rounds and prevailing by six shots.

She also teamed with Jenna Kim of Raleigh to capture the U.S. Kids Team World Championship in the girls ages 9-10 ranks with a score of a smoking 5-under-par 31 for nine holes.

Furthermore, junior golf expertise is becoming a family affair for the daughters of Regan and Steven Hannant of Pikeville.

Zada Lee, age 7, partnered with Lauren Davis of Cary to seize the U.S. Kids Team World Championship in girls ages 8-under.

Also, Ella June, Zada Lee and Karsyn, the oldest at 13, all finished first in their respective age groups in the local Drive Chip & Putt qualifier at The Legends Resort near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, recently and will participate in the subregional in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on Aug. 24.

“I have worked very hard and I am happy it’s paid off,” Ella June said. “I have played a lot of good golf this year.”

And of her sisters’ surging prominence, Ella June giggled and responded: “They’re playing good. So, I’ve got to play good so that I can still beat them.”

Their father assures sibling rivalry is unmistakable. Hannant notes the girls support one another on the course but, once off the course, they’re quick to compare scores and the number of birdies.

“They play a lot together and compete like any rival sisters,” Hannant noted. “It’s a lot to handle.”


Dad praises Ella June’s passion, discipline and commitment.

“She loves the game,” he explained. “She studies it, watches it, practices all the time and knows the game’s trivia and heroes from the past.

“I think her discipline is extraordinary for her young age. In her daily regimen, she does a lot of different things that kids don’t do at her age. She can hit all the clubs. Her mental strength and putting under pressure set her apart.”

Ella Jane is coached by former PGA Tour and Champions Tour member Clarence Rose of Goldsboro at Lane Tree Golf Club.

Zada Lee, on her seventh birthday, fired her career-low score of 33. Hannant said his youngest daughter’s best performances came in the recent world championship. He describes Zada Lee as an “up-and-comer.”

“She has a lot of raw talent,” Hannant expressed, “and we hope she follows in Ella June’s path with her passion and discipline.”

While Ella June and Zada Lee are home-schooled via an online program, Karsyn is a rising eighth grader at Wayne Country Day. As a seventh grader, she was proclaimed the co-most valuable player on the golf team and helped the Chargers reach the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 2-A state tournament.


In last weekend’s U.S. Kids world championship, Ella June bested 112 other 9-year-olds from 15 different countries. She was either tied for the lead or owned the top spot outright every round.

The setup for her age group was distances of 120 yards for par-3 layouts, 275 for par-4s and 340 for par-5s. Par for nine holes was 36.

Ella June’s even-par 36 left her in a five-way tie for first place after the opening round. Her 2-under 34 the second round vaulted her in front for keeps by two shots. Ella June closed with a 2-under 34, prevailing by six shots against Ellani Buhagiar. Buhagiar, from Canada, was a member of Ella June’s threesome the final round. Ella June tied for the low round each day.

Ella June prepared for the world championship by winning regionals in Georgia (Jekyll Island) in March, Virginia (Williamsburg) in April and North Carolina (Pinehurst) in June.

She posted a 36-37—73 to win by a shot in Georgia; fired a 35 and won a playoff on the third hole when the Virginia regional was shortened to one round because of inclement weather; and emerged the champion in the North Carolina regional with rounds of 39-37—76.

Ella June sizzled in the state of North Carolina championship at Longleaf, dominating with a 33-32—65.

In a scramble format, Ella June and Jenna Kim combined for a 5-under 31 to celebrate U.S. Kids Team World Championship supremacy. The round included five birdies.


“Really awesome,” Ella June described the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. “It was a really great experience and I had a lot of fun.

“It was a very exciting experience knowing I was in the lead with a couple of holes to go. I like handling pressure; that’s when I play some of my best golf. I got up-and-down for birdie on the last hole and that was really cool. Everybody got to see it.”

Ella June said she enjoys both the U.S. Kids and self-explanatory Drive Chip & Putt concepts.

“I love to hit all the shots,” she explained, “and the Drive Chip & Putt is big because of Augusta (the finals are contested the week of The Masters yearly). “My favorite part is putting.”

Regarding her passion for golf, Ella June, a “veteran” 9-year-old to interview, responds: “I love being outside and going to all the nice and amazing places. And I especially love winning.”

Golf is not the only sport at which Ella June — or Zada Lee — excels. In June, Ella June won the girls ages 9-10 javelin throw at the PowerAde State Games of North Carolina in Charlotte while Zada won the girls 8-under javelin. Ella June is preparing to become a competitive discus thrower.


But when it comes to golf, the newly crowned world champion may soon realize her sternest threat may be someone who shares the same residence as she. Zada Lee is creating a stir.

Once again, Ella June giggles and comments: “I’m going to try to not let that happen.”

In the U.S. Kids Team world event, Zada Lee and Davis dazzled with a 2-under 34. And in the recent Drive Chip & Putt local qualifier, Zada Lee’s performance surpassed that of her two older sisters in that she won the driving, chipping and putting segments against her age-group rivals.

Zada Lee triumphed with 90 points — 13 in the drive, 27 in the chipping and 50 in the putting. Ella posted a score of 12-45-50—97, while Karsyn finished 28-55-55—138. All three won decisively.

Keep in mind that Karsyn sometimes defeats Ella June on the course. But Karsyn admits she’s probably not as serious about the game as Ella June and Zada Lee. Golf videos and books are more appealing to her younger siblings.

“I do like going out on the course and competing against them,” Karsyn acknowledged. “It’s really fun and we do it a lot. It’s about who wins each time.”

And, yes, Karsyn contends Zada Lee may eventually outshine Ella June.

“(Zada Lee) works hard, too, and is improving every aspect of her game,” Karsyn reasoned. “But Ella June does love it a lot. I don’t know who could love it more.”