USGA WOMEN'S STATE TEAM
Familiarity, Past Success Help Drive Florida September 18, 2013 | Kettering, Ohio By Scott Lipsky, USGA

Meghan Stasi, of Oakland Park, Fla., carded rounds of 73-75-74--222 in the 2013 Women's State Championship. (USGA/Chris Keane)

At first glance, it would be easy to look at the Florida trio that finished second in this week’s USGA Women’s State Team Championship as one that has plenty of talent, but one that would be hard-pressed to play as a cohesive group. Meghan Stasi, the four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, represented her adopted state for the third time, and welcomed teammates Tara Joy-Connelly and Ericka Schneider for the first time.

Keep looking, however, and you’ll see that not only were Stasi and Joy-Connelly familiar with one another, but they had already attained success by joining forces. And though she was a newcomer to the Florida team, Joy-Connelly was well acquainted with the Women’s State Team.

A Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. resident for the past two years, Joy-Connelly had made seven previous appearances in the championship, representing her native state of Massachusetts. Now playing most of her golf in the Sunshine State, Joy-Connelly teamed up with Stasi to win the 2012 Florida State Four-Ball Championship and the 2013 Women’s International Four-Ball Championship. When it came to playing for her new team and seeing her old team this week, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur semifinalist seemed to make a smooth adjustment.

"It was a little [weird], but I’ve played in Florida for a couple years now. It’s good to see [her former teammates], because I do play some up North, some of the bigger tournaments," said Joy-Connelly, who won the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur for the second time this year. It’s such an honor to be here. You just want to come with your A game and play your best and see what happens."

Stasi and Joy-Connelly appeared to have their A games early on this week, both opening with rounds of even-par 73 on Tuesday to hold second place after Day One. On Thursday afternoon, Stasi made an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to seal second place for Florida, the state’s best finish since winning the championship in 1999.

Before Stasi and Joy-Connelly became formidable teammates, they knew each other as fellow competitors. They first played against one another early in their amateur careers, when they represented their respective golf associations in the Griscom Cup, a team event between players representing the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association (greater New York City area), Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts and Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia.

Their paths crossed again when Joy-Connelly’s husband, J.P., took a job as an assistant pro at Huntingdon Valley Country Club in the Philadelphia area. Newly reinstated as an amateur after spending one year on the LPGA Futures Tour and one year as a club pro, Joy-Connelly competed against Stasi in Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia events in 2002. Stasi was in the midst of a legendary run that saw her win the Philadelphia Women’s Golf Championship seven straight years, from 1999-2005.

Joy-Connelly would move back up north when J.P. became the head professional at Cohasset Golf Club outside of Boston, where he still serves, and make her mark in her home state. Her resume includes two Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championships, five wins in the Grace Keyes Cup (Massachusetts stroke play championship) and seven Player of the Year awards. The accolades helped her garner Massachusetts Golf Association Player of the Decade honors in 2009.

Stasi, who helped Florida to a sixth-place finish in her second Women’s State Team appearance in 2011, was happy to have her four-ball partner as a teammate in the biennial event.

"It’s been an exciting year, it’s an incredible honor to play for the state," said Stasi, who will try to win a record fifth U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur next month when she defends her title at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, N.C. "Tara is a great player, and I look forward to a lot more great matches and great teams. There are so many good players, we have so many good friends, we pair up when we can."

The connections between Florida teammates extend to Ericka Schneider, who recently wrapped up her collegiate golf career at the University of Mississippi, where Stasi served as head coach from 2000-07, at one time the youngest collegiate head coach in the nation. Schneider and Stasi weren’t part of the Ole Miss program at the same time, but the synergy between the trio has undoubtedly served as an asset this week.

"We know we’re always going to be there [for each other]," said Joy-Connelly. "We know the other one is always going to grind it out and do their best."

Scott Lipsky is the USGA’s social media specialist. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.