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Australian Day finds home in central Ohio

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Australian golfer Jason Day has made his American home with wife Ellie in Genoa Township, just north of Westerville.
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By DON DELCO
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A few years ago, Jeg Coughlin III settled in next to Jason Day at the Muirfield Village Golf Club's driving range.

Coughlin III, now a junior at Village Academy and a member of the boys golf team, was swinging away on his bucket of practice balls.

"I remember thinking that it is pretty cool I'm hitting balls next to Jason Day," Coughlin III said. "He then came up to me and told me that I had a great swing and that we should play sometime."

Coughlin III has since played several holes with Day when the PGA Tour pro is in central Ohio. Around the same time Day struck up a conversation with Coughlin III on the range, he was just settling into the area. Day bought a house in Westerville and joined Muirfield Village.

"We lived in Fort Worth, Texas, before this," Day said. "We were looking to start a family. My family is back home in Australia and her family is up here. We could move anywhere we wanted. I said to her that we should move back to Ohio."

Conflicted fans follow Day

Day finds himself in a unique situation at this year's Presidents Cup.

Day, who is from Beaudesert, Queesnland, Australia, will be representing the International Team. He also married to a woman from the Mansfield area, lives in Westerville and is a member at the host course.

Luckily for Day, he's already experienced the pressure of a Presidents Cup.

In 2011, Day qualified for his first Presidents Cup, which was being contested in his home country at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. He finished 1-3-1 and the U.S. Team won 19-15.

"It was a very long week," said Day, 25. "I played 34 holes on Saturday in pouring raining from start to finish. We then went to dinner that night. By Sunday, I was totally wrecked. I was fried. Physically I was almost done. As a rookie, you don't understand how long the week spans out."

Two years later, the Presidents Cup isn't in his home country, but in his adopted hometown.

"It's quite nice that my wife will handle the off-the-course side of things," Day said. "With my wife being from an hour north of (Columbus), there will be a lot of family members. It's going to be exciting to see them all out there cheering me on."

The support will be strong for Day, but that's where it stops for his friends and family in central Ohio.

"Of course, being American I'm rooting for the U.S.," Coughlin III said. "Jason is a good buddy, and I wouldn't want anything except for him to play good. He's had a good year, and I don't expect anything but great golf from him. I don't see how he can't do well."

Romantic road to the PGA Tour

Day is in his sixth season as a full-time member of the PGA Tour.

In 2007, Day earned his way onto the Tour thanks, in part, to two Web.com events in Ohio.

Day became the youngest player by two years to win a Web.com Tour event at 19, when he posted a record 16-under-par at the Legend Financial Group Classic at StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights. The following week he tied for fifth at the inaugural Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.

Day was playing well the same time that Ellie Harvey was back in his life. When Day was 17, he was in Twinsburg with his golf coach and caddie Colin Swanton, who was starting a golf academy. Day and Swanton would frequent a Twinsburg restaurant where Day struck up a friendship with Harvey, who worked nights after attending cosmetology school during the day.

Two years later, Day was back in northeast Ohio for a Web.com event when he ran into Harvey at a graduation party of a mutual friend.

The two rekindled their friendship. Harvey attended the final round of the Legend Financial Group Classic and the following week she drove down to Columbus where the two had their official first date.

Six months later Ellie was traveling with Day, who was now a rookie on the PGA Tour. In October of 2009, the two married and in July of 2011 they welcomed their first child.

Since moving into the area, the Australian golfer has assimilated to the Buckeye state. Ellie Day, who is more active on social media than her husband, has tweeted pictures of him in scarlet and gray, wearing a Cleveland Indians hat and standing outside German Village restaurant, Barcelona, on a "date night."

"It's been great ever since we've moved here," Jason said. "Columbus is a great city and a great place to raise a family."

Contention comes quick

Away from his new home, Day is making a name for himself on the PGA Tour.

In his rookie year, Day finished with six top-25 finishes in 28 starts followed by a 48th-place finish in the FedExCup standings his sophomore season.

In 2010, Day won the HP Byron Nelson Championship. While that remains his only win on the PGA Tour, Day has challenged when the stakes were the highest.

Three months after his win, Day finished tied for 10th at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. It was a sign of things to come.

In 2011, Day finished tied for second at the Masters Tournament and had a solo second at the U.S. Open at Congressional. This year, Day had a solo third-place finish at the Masters, tied for second at the U.S. Open at Merion and tied for eighth at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. Day and fellow countryman Adam Scott were the only two players to finish in the top 10 in three of this season's four majors.

"I prepare very well going into the weeks of majors," Day said. "I know what clubs I need to hit off each tee, what club to expect to hit into the greens and what to expect around the greens. I feel comfortable and I just have to then go out, stay hungry and play golf.

"Major championships are more about grinding out those 10-foot puts and make sure to keep yourself in it."

From rookie to key team member

Day's strong performances in the major championships are something International Team captain Nick Price has noticed. Traditionally, the Australians and South Africans have been called upon to lead this team.

Day is in his second stint as a member of the International Team. He may not have the major championship victories like teammates Ernie Els with four, Angel Cabrera with two and Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, who each has one. But most golf pundits consider Day winning a major championship to be inevitable.

Until next April at Augusta National, Day's pursuit of a major title is on hold. For now, Day is hoping to lead the International Team to its first Presidents Cup win since 1998. According to Day, the team is off to a good start with Price as the captain.

"He wants to involve all the team members," Day said. "That's the best way to bring a team together is to listening to what every single member has to say. He's been a very involved captain. I know he wants us to do well and win a Cup."

At the Memorial Tournament last June, Price held a meeting with potential International Team members that included Scott and Day. Those two, along with Marc Leishman, are representing Australia on this year's Presidents Cup team.

"I've got to know Jason really well the past three to four months," Price said. "I had a good chat with him as to who he felt I should chose as a captain pick. Jason has played well at the major championships and along with (Scott) they are just two wonderful players. I know they'll make Marc feel very much apart of the team."

According to Coughlin III, just being "another one of the guys" and making others feel comfortable is what Day does best.

"He's really down to earth, and he's never one to be in the spotlight," Coughlin III said. "He's approachable, and he doesn't think of himself as a superstar. He's a really simple guy, open with everybody, and he's just a really nice guy."

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