By Bob Dyer
Beacon Journal columnist
He’s second on the Firestone leaderboard.
She’s fourth on her own leaderboard.
He is Jason Day, the young Australian who shot a smoking 7 under par to finish 1 stroke off the lead after the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational.
She is Ellie Day, who ranks fourth on the official list of smokin’ hot golfer wives.
Seriously. Google “hottest wives on PGA Tour” and near the top, you will find the former Ellie Harvey, who until just a few years ago lived at Hidden Lakes Apartments in Stow.
Now, I can’t actually vouch for the scientific method employed by AthleteWives.com, but anytime someone is mentioned in the same breath as Ana Ivanovic (main squeeze of first-round leader Adam Scott), Elin Nordegren and Amy Mickelson, something is definitely cooking.
Both of the Days came roaring into the spotlight in just the past few months.
Jason, who earned his PGA Tour card only three years ago, finished second in two of the year’s first three majors: the Masters Tournament and the U.S. Open.
The Masters also served as Ellie’s coming-out party. CBS gave her nearly as much face time as it gave to her husband.
“That was embarrassing,” she says with a laugh while walking along the ninth fairway Thursday.
“I was just hoping he would make the cut [at Augusta]. We just came off a missed cut in Houston, and he was not in a good frame of mind at all.”
So when her husband ended up in the thick of the action Sunday, she was thrilled. She also was having a hard time watching him because of the mob of spectators following his group.
“Normally I don’t like to put myself in front of a camera if at all possible. But I said, ‘That’s my husband. Can I just get inside the rope so I can see?’ And they pushed me all the way up to the front.
“I see this CBS guy right next to me. You see cameras all the time, but you don’t know how much they’re actually putting on TV. I didn’t have any idea. Then I got home that night.
“I had 66 friend requests on Facebook from complete strangers. All these dudes. I’m thinking, ‘You know the reason you saw me on TV was because of my husband, right?’?”
After that, things progressed as they usually do in 21st century America: She was an overnight smash on the Internet as TV viewers went online to search for photos and biographical information.
In fact, the day after the Masters, the story that received the most hits on our entire Ohio.com website was a feature about Ellie written by the Beacon’s Marla Ridenour eight months earlier.
Ellie’s instant fame was almost as bizarre for her father, Tom Harvey, a tall, personable fellow who lives with his wife in Lucas, near Mansfield, where Ellie grew up.
“It’s just weird,” he says. “It’s like the J. Geils song:
“My blood runs cold /
“My memory has just been sold /
“My angel is a centerfold.
“You see your daughter and you say, ‘Is that my girl?’ From that standpoint, you’re a little bit taken aback.”
The second stage in the Sudden Fame phenomenon, of course, is anonymous people trying to tear you down.
Her father says he is generally able to shrug off the potshots simply because “it comes with the territory.” Ellie tries to do the same, but admits it can be a struggle.
“You’re curious because people are saying stuff about you, but you don’t want to read it. It just opens the door to say mean things. It’s such a bizarre feeling. They say the craziest things, and suddenly you feel like you have to defend yourself and your relationship.
“Most of it was complimentary, but even that was weird.”
Any accusations of gold-digging are laughable. Jason, who ranks ninth on this year’s money list with $2.8 million, hadn’t even turned pro when they first met in 2005 at Marvis Winkle’s Irish Pub in Twinsburg. Ellie was working there in the evenings and attending beauty school during the day.
She barely knew the difference between a driver and a putter. To her, he was just some cute, young guy with a funny accent who was talking to some other guy about opening some kind of golf school.
He was painfully shy, a mere 17 years old. At 19, she was not exactly a cougar, but the difference seemed large at the time.
Their relationship got off to a slow start. Jason’s current caddie, Colin Swatton, continued to play matchmaker, though, and the Days wound up marrying in late 2009.
When they first started dating, she was still living in Stow.
“I loved Stow,” she says. “I was right off Fishcreek. One of my good friends and I would go to the Dusty Armadillo on Wednesday nights.”
Today she never knows where she’ll be on a Wednesday night. Sometimes she’s not even in the continental United States. There are mornings when she wakes up and literally doesn’t know where she is.
When the Days are not on a far-flung golf course, they split their time between Dallas and a big home they bought last year in the Columbus suburb of Westerville.
They consider the Bridgestone Invitational “a home game,” Ellie says with grin.
They’ve certainly made themselves right at home. Their gigantic recreational vehicle is parked on the Firestone grounds, and Jason is spending some of his free time with a fishing line dipped into one of the lakes on the North Course.
The distance from Stow to Firestone is only 15 miles. It must feel like a million.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.