ASHEVILLE, N.C. – When he offered to caddie for defending
champion Meghan Stasi in the 27th U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, Morris
Hatalsky understood that he was not her top choice.
Never mind that Hatalsky is a seven-time winner on the PGA
Tour and Champions Tour. Or that Hatalsky, who led the PGA Tour in putting in
1983, has been a member at the host club, Biltmore Forest Country Club, for
more than a decade.
Hatalsky and Stasi had played together at Biltmore Forest in
early July at the championship’s media day
and immediately hit it off, Hatalsky recalled. But he realized that his
offer to tote for the four-time champion was bucking both tradition and family
“I got on my hands and knees and begged her,” said Hatalsky
on Friday, grinning broadly. “And she said, well, I have to talk to my daddy.”
Stasi’s father, Mike, had caddied for Meghan in each of her
previous Women’s Mid-Am triumphs – in 2006, 2007, 2010 and last year at Briggs
Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas, where she defeated Liz Waynick, 6 and 5,
in the championship match. But Stasi’s father has been bothered by sore knees,
and Hatalsky got the nod. He caddied for Stasi in practice rounds on Thursday
and Friday ahead of Saturday’s 8:40 a.m. starting time off the 10th tee in the
first round of stroke-play qualifying.
“It was on a trial basis…. and he passed,” said Stasi with a
laugh after Friday’s round.
“I was obviously the second choice – and that was fine with
me,” said Hatalsky, 61. “It’s understandable since he’s been on the bag so many
Hatalsky brings both his Tour pedigree and the value of
local knowledge. Although he can’t lend Stasi his putting stroke (which golf
writer Michael Bamberger once called “a thing of beauty, rhythmic and
repeatable”), he can provide plenty of insight on the classic mountain layout
at Biltmore Forest.
“There’s a lot of tilt to the greens, being a Donald Ross
course,” said Hatalsky. “And there’s plenty of undulation to go along with it.
Not only that, you’re in the mountains, and that actually plays a role in
trying to figure out these greens. There are some putts that can get away from
you and others that are extremely slow.”
A San Diego native, Hatalsky wound up in western North
Carolina when he was in his late 40s and his PGA Tour career was winding down.
“I think it was 1998 when I became a member here,” he said.
“It was a transition in my livelihood, a comma in life. I became a partner in a
golf development [Trillium Lake and Links Club] that four of us started in
Cashiers, N.C., and we picked Asheville to have our children grow up here. We
split our time now between here and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.”
Stasi quickly impressed Hatalsky during their media-day
round two months ago.
“It was obvious that with our personalities we got along
nicely,” he said. “She was very open to trying to understand the golf course. I
shared some things about it, and she’s getting more and more comfortable
playing this course.”
Hatalsky became eligible for the Champions Tour in late
2001, and he has three victories, 10 runner-up finishes and more than $8.3
million in earnings. He is still competitive, holding down 29th place in the
Schwab Cup points race despite playing in just 10 events this year, fewer than
half of many top senior players.
“It’s an honor to have him on the bag and his local
knowledge is a tremendous help,” said Stasi, 35. “We’re just going to go with
the flow. I’m not changing anything in my game; I’m going to go about things
the way I always have.”
It’s hard to argue with that strategy considering Stasi’s record
in this championship. Her will to
succeed was on display last year, when she pulled off a memorable comeback on
the way to her record-tying fourth championship title: she trailed Lynne Cowan
by five holes with six to play in a second-round match before rallying to win
in 21 holes.
“I very much respect her game,” said Hatalsky. “I think she plays
at a high level – and she obviously plays at a high level in competition. She’s
the type of player that if she had decided to give it a shot she could have
been an LPGA Tour player. As it is, she gets to enjoy some competition and
travel all over the world and I think she’s enjoying it very much.”
Hatalsky paused, then added, “And to me, since I can’t play
in the Women’s Mid-Am, the second-best thing is to be on a golf bag.”
Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.