By Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports columnist
If it was love at first sight, it took Ellie Harvey awhile to realize it.
All the waitress at Mavis Winkle's Irish Pub in Twinsburg knew was that a cute golfer with an Australian accent she'd met the year before had somehow gotten her phone number and was texting her. She suspected the culprit was his coach and caddie, Colin Swatton, the go-between when Jason Day walked into her life.
Harvey and Day were introduced in 2005, when she was attending Paul Mitchell beauty school and working every night at the restaurant. Day was a 17-year-old amateur living halfway around the world who'd come to town to see Swatton, frequenting the place as he discussed opening a golf academy with one of the pub's regulars. Although Day and Harvey became friends, they saw each other infrequently and didn't go on their first date until two years later, when Day had turned pro and was playing the Nationwide Tour.
Day wasn't attracted to Harvey because of her knowledge of golf, because she had none. But he might have considered her a good-luck charm. Day won the first tournament Ellie attended, the Legend Financial Group Classic Presented by Cynergies Solutions. With his triumph in 2007 at StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights, Day became the youngest player to capture a PGA Tour-sponsored event.
Harvey and Day were married in October. Traveling the PGA Tour in a slightly used RV, they returned to Northeast Ohio this week for the $8.5 million Bridgestone Invitational.
As Day plays Firestone Country Club for the first time, qualifying with his victory in the Byron Nelson Championship, chances are he'll have a vocal gallery from a special Twinsburg pub. Now residing in Fort Worth, Texas, the couple might find time for house-hunting as they consider living at least part time in Ohio. Ellie grew up in Lucas, near Mansfield, and her brother lives in Canton. She also has friends in Hudson, where she worked at a hair salon.
''I still tell the story of why I loved Ellie when I hired her,'' said Kim Cancasci, general manager of Mavis Winkle's. ''On the application under strengths and weaknesses, she listed her weakness as chocolate and shoes. I had to call her to come in. I knew she had a sparkling personality and a sense of humor. I think that's why she and Jason made a connection.''
Romance takes off
Their romance took off the week of the Nationwide tournament in Cleveland three years ago, and Ellie believes there was a little bit of fate involved.
''He was messaging me and calling,'' she said. ''We ran into each other at a graduation party for a mutual friend from Mavis Winkle's. He wasn't going to go; he didn't know many people. I wasn't going to go; I'd been laying out at my apartment and gotten fried. We were the only ones not drinking. We hadn't seen each other in forever. He asked me out.
''I went to watch him that Sunday in the Cleveland tournament and he ended up winning. The following week was an event in Columbus. I drove down there a couple times. Six months later I moved in and we started traveling on the PGA Tour. It was the craziest thing ever. My dad and mom wanted to kill me.''
Her father, Tom Harvey, a loss control specialist for Granger Insurance in Lucas, still remembers his trepidation when Ellie announced she was moving to Orlando to live with Day in February, 2008. Tom Harvey had been around athletes for 20 years as a junior high and high school basketball and baseball coach and had heard stories about the women who followed the pros.
''Of course I expressed my concerns,'' Harvey said. ''She was 21 and could make her own decisions, but it wasn't what Dad had hoped for. One of the fellas who sometimes cuts my hair said, 'No worries. Golfers are different than professional baseball, basketball and football players.' Then six months later the Tiger thing broke.
''I didn't even know who Jason was; I didn't know what the Nationwide Tour was. Jason is a nice young man, I've gotten to spend a lot of time with him. They seem to have a symbiotic energy about them.''
Ellie's friends at Mavis Winkle's didn't share her father's fears.
''We all encouraged her that sometimes you have to take risks,'' Cancasci said.
But Ellie said the decision was not an easy one.
''When he was trying to convince me to move in with him and travel, I was a little freaked out,'' she said. ''I had my whole life up here. He said, 'Come to the first event with me and see how it goes.'
''The first event was in Hawaii. When I left Ohio my parking lot was iced over. It was awesome, even though he missed the cut. Two weeks later I packed up my stuff and left. From then on it was madness.''
Harvey said the two seem to be a good match, because they're homebodies who love relaxing with their dogs. Ellie is pursuing an online degree in business with hopes of someday opening a salon. Jason has been coping with a chronic sinus infection that was bothering him even when he won the Byron Nelson in May.
Already traveling to five tournaments this year, Harvey is keeping an eye on his young son-in-law. When it comes to chores, Harvey has been impressed that the first thing Day does when he gets up each morning is iron his own clothes.
''I haven't seen him iron any of hers yet,'' Harvey joked. ''That will be the litmus test.''
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com.