U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Stasi Enjoying Rare USGA Homecoming at Rolling Green July 31, 2016 | Springfield, Pa. By David Shefter, USGA

This week's U.S. Women's Amateur at Rolling Green gives Meghan Stasi a chance to compete close to her hometown of Voorhees, N.J. (USGA/Darren Carroll) 

U.S. Women's Amateur Home

When Meghan Stasi gets a rare opportunity to return home to Greater Philadelphia, the first place she visits doesn’t include any of the typical tourist stops.

It’s not Independence Hall, Geno’s or Pat’s for a Philly cheesesteak, a soft pretzel stand or running the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, a scene made famous in “Rocky.”

“Even though I live 2 miles from the ocean in Ft. Lauderdale [Fla.], I drive to the [Jersey] Shore,” said Stasi. “The Shore is just home.”

Her second stop? A popular convenience store/gas station headquartered in Greater Philadelphia.

“Wawa! That’s the only thing on my list,” said Stasi, a native of Voorhees, N.J., just across the Delaware River in Camden County, who now resides in South Florida with her husband, Danny. “But one of these days I need to be a tourist. There are some things in [Philadelphia] I haven’t done in a long time.”

Golf, however, is not one of them. The four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion spends plenty of time at the area’s classic venues when she comes home, whether it’s her home club, Tavistock Country Club, or some of the many classic layouts, including the William Flynn-designed Rolling Green Golf Club, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary by hosting the 116th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.

At 38, Stasi is the second-oldest in the 156-player field and the oldest to qualify, which makes competing this week even more special. Thirteen years ago when the Women’s Amateur was hosted by Philadelphia Country Club, Stasi disappointingly failed to qualify. So when the USGA announced it was taking the 2016 Women’s Amateur to Rolling Green, Stasi circled the date.

As one of the most dominant female amateurs in the city for the past 15 years, Stasi couldn’t fathom missing another opportunity to play a national championship in front of family and friends. From 1999-2005, Stasi claimed seven consecutive Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia (WGAP) Amateur titles. Her eighth was secured two years ago. Eastern High School, her alma mater, inducted her into its hall of fame, and she’s an honorary member of the WGAP.

In addition to her four USGA titles, she represented the USA on the victorious 2008 Curtis Cup Team, where after the competition, her now-husband proposed on the Swilcan Bridge, an iconic landmark of the Old Course at St. Andrews. She’s also represented her adopted home state of Florida four times in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship.

But it’s Philadelphia where her heart lies.

It’s where her father, Mike, and now-deceased grandparents introduced her to the game. Her fondest childhood golf memory is when her grandfather caddied for her in a three-hole event 30 years ago at Greate Bay Country Club not far from Atlantic City. The $5 pro shop gift certificate she won was used to purchase a sleeve of pink flying lady golf balls.

“It is truly the best in the country,” said Stasi of golf in Greater Philadelphia. “You can look on Google Maps and know within 30 minutes you’re at another great golf course. Each course has its own tradition and legacy in itself.”

Since graduating from Tulane University in 2000 and spending seven seasons coaching at Ole Miss, Stasi has become one of the country’s best mid-amateur (25 and older) golfers. She is the most recent mid-amateur to play on a USA Curtis Cup Team. Twice, she has captured the Florida State Golf Association’s Women’s Mid-Amateur and in 2014 she won the Harder Hall Invitational by eight strokes against a field of collegians, juniors and mid-amateurs.

When Stasi arrived at Rolling Green on Saturday morning after tying for 54th in the Canadian Women’s Amateur, it took her extra time to get through the registration line. Members and friends stopped to chat for a few minutes.

Many at the club remember Stasi from a round three years ago at Rolling Green that included 1976 U.S. Women’s Open champion and World Golf Hall of Famer JoAnne Gunderson Carner. Stasi befriended Carner, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., through living in South Florida. When she mentioned to Stasi that she had never played Merion or Pine Valley, Stasi used her Philadelphia-area connections to arrange a trip. They played Merion and Pine Valley and then came to Rolling Green, a course Carner had not seen in 37 years. The foursome that day included Stasi’s brother, Billy, and 2004 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up Liz Haines, of Gladwyne, Pa.

About 50 members came out to watch them tee off. A few more trailed during the round in which the memories flooded back for Carner, who defeated Sandra Palmer, 76-78, in an 18-hole playoff for her second U.S. Women’s Open title and eighth USGA championship.

“She was incredible,” said Stasi of Carner. “They gave her an honorary membership. She remembered every shot [from 1976].”

Stasi picked up a few pointers on Rolling Green that day. But without being exempt, she knew the odds of qualifying weren’t great. Unlike the days when Carner was winning five Women’s Amateur titles, the fields now are filled with college and junior players. This year’s field features 102 players under the age of 20, and only five mid-amateurs, one of whom is still in college.

“We were at the qualifier [in Lawrence, Kan.] and one of the girls said, ‘There’s a grown woman playing in the golf tournament.’”

Last week at the Canadian Women’s Amateur, Stasi was sitting with a young competitor and a lady thought it was her daughter. “Like, no, I’m playing,” said Stasi.

With her husband having Kansas City roots and getting out of talent-rich Florida, Stasi chose to qualify at Lawrence (Kan.) Country Club on July 11, a move that paid off when she carded a 76 to earn one of the four available spots. This will be her 10th Women’s Amateur appearance. Her only other USGA start that came close to home was the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., a 90-minute-plus drive.

Her goal now is to just enjoy the experience and not place too much undue pressure on herself. A big key this week, she says, is her short game.

“I can hit it off the tee with everyone else,” said Stasi. “I can hit great shots into the greens. Around here, you have to master the greens and master the short game. I know I can play. I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t. I just have to turn it up a little. I’ve shot too many 75s this summer.

“For me, I just have to stay level-headed. Deep down, I am very excited because I know the course, I know the area. I’m at home. I am very comfortable. But I also want to play my best.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

 

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