USGA WOMEN'S STATE TEAM
Fleming Ready to Defend With New Teammates in Tow September 10, 2015 | Cape Girardeau, Mo. By Scott Lipsky, USGA

Tara Fleming, part of New Jersey's victorious Women's State Team squad in 2013, is proud to represent the Garden State once again. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Women's State Team Home

Four players arrived at Dalhousie Golf Club already knowing the feeling of winning the USGA Women’s State Team Championship. All of them – Tara Fleming, of New Jersey; Kathy Hartwiger, of Alabama; Leigh Klasse, of Minnesota; and Judy Miller, of Arizona – will be the sole members of their respective squads to have hoisted the Judy Bell Trophy.

Fleming was a member of the New Jersey team that cleared the rest of the field by three strokes at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, in 2013. Buoyed by individual medalist Alice Chen, New Jersey edged out a Florida team that included four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, giving the Garden State its first title in the 10th playing of the championship.

With Chen off to Furman University and fellow teammate Cindy Ha now competing at Vanderbilt University (college players are ineligible to participate in the Women’s State Team, per NCAA rules), Fleming is part of a rebuilt squad that includes Ami Gianchandani and Adrienne MacLean, who, like Fleming, is a reinstated amateur.

“Quite frankly, this championship is very unique in that it’s two years apart. Most of the time, I don’t even consider ourselves to be the defending champions because it’s a completely different team,” said Fleming, who won the New Jersey State Women’s Mid-Amateur title last month. “It’s an honor to be chosen by your state to represent them regardless of the year and regardless of the performance before or after.”

That’s not to say that this new-look group is short on accolades, or experience . Gianchandani, 15, stood out among her peers at the state level this summer, claiming the New Jersey Junior Girls Championship, and making her USGA championship debut in the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club. MacLean, the wife of former New Jersey Devils hockey star John MacLean, is a veteran of 13 USGA championships, and has represented New Jersey in the Women’s State Team on two previous occasions. She will make her U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur debut later this month at Hillwood Country Club, in Nashville, Tenn.

While the Women’s State Team features a 3-count-2 stroke-play format in which each player posts their own score, Fleming, who is serving as the team’s playing captain, has put a premium on the importance of team chemistry heading into the team competition. Prior to their departure for Dalhousie, the trio played together at New Jersey National Golf Club, Fleming’s home course, to become familiar with one other as teammates, just as she had done with Chen and Ha in 2013.

“Neither of us had met Ami before, so it was nice to get a chance to get a little camaraderie before the event starts,” said Fleming, who knew MacLean from their college days before they reconnected as fellow competitors in state events. “The key word is team. It’s not three individuals playing, it’s a team playing, so I think it’s important that we all get together.”

A native of Canada, Fleming has spent the last six years as a resident of New Jersey, and resumed her amateur golf career after relocating. MacLean, like Fleming, also came to the Garden State from elsewhere – Manhasset, N.Y., in her case.

“For me, I’ve been in New Jersey longer than anywhere else, so it really is home. Having gone through Stanley Cups, and flag-waving for the Devils, and [John] being such a part of it, it’s just sort of a natural extension,” said MacLean.

Fleming knows what it feels like to bring a national championship home and is excited about the opportunity to do it again.

“When you set roots, and you start to do things in a community where you live, and then to have the opportunity to play on behalf of that community, I don’t think it matters how long you’ve lived there if that’s your home,” she said. “For them to recognize me and want me to represent them, it makes me excited to be able to do that.”

Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.

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