You always hear about the cream rising to the top in golf tournaments. Most of the time, it’s no more than fodder for TV types to chew on during lulls in the action, or when Tiger Woods isn’t on the course. Last week in The Florida Women’s Amateur Championship at Weston Hills CC in Weston, sans TV cameras, it was truly an apt description.
In the final match of the championship Meghan Stasi, the 2010 winner and three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion (2006, ’07 and ’10) scored a 3-and-2 win against 2009 French Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Marie Arnoux, now of Miami Beach.
Stasi, who began the year with a win in the Ione D. Jones/Dougherty Women’s Amateur Championship, came into the final match on a roll. In her quarterfinal match, Stasi defeated good friend and fellow fierce competitor Diane Lang, the two-time defending and three-time Florida Senior Women’s Champion, 5 and 4.
“We are good friends … before and after the match,” Stasi admitted, “but during the match, we really want to win. I made a few putts and had five birdies in the match.”
In the semifinals, Stasi’s putter didn’t cool down as she recorded five more birdies on the way to defeating high school senior Samantha Marks, also by a 5-and-4 margin.
Arnoux had a bit more of a challenge in her two matches on Thursday. In the morning, she was extended to 19 holes before defeating Nancy Smith. In the afternoon, she regrouped and notched a 5 and 4 win against No. 1-seeded Kailey Walsh.
Until a recently revved up tournament schedule, Stasi pretty much was on her own to prepare for a summer tournament schedule that continues Tuesday with a one-day 36-hole qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I try to play as much as I can to keep my swing intact,” she said. “And I try to stay mentally sharp and ready to compete, but there aren’t a lot of mid-amateur tournaments between February and May.”
As most golfers realize, match play is a different breed. Instead of spending a round trying to avoid train wrecks where a bad hole can totally ruin the day, in match play you can make a 12 on a hole and if your opponent makes a birdie, you’ve only lost one hole.
That attitude works especially if you can develop short-term amnesia. Stasi was able to both avoid the disastrous hole and immediately forget the putt that lipped out on the last green. Moreover, she avoided match-play letdown where during a series, the mind takes a break and the focus wavers.
“I know what that’s about and it never happened this week at all,” she said. “I think part of that was because I was able to stay at home this week. I even worked a couple of shifts at the restaurant (the Shuck N Dive in Fort Lauderdale, owned by her husband, Danny, where evidently they serve the dinner of champions). It kept me relaxed.”
Obviously, it worked well Friday morning when she squared off with Arnoux for the trophy.
Stasi opened with a hole-winning birdie on the par-5 first hole and led for the rest of the match. She advanced to a 2-up edge with another birdie on the eighth. Arnoux answered with a birdie on the 11th to cut her deficit to 1 down before Stasi countered with another winning birdie on the 12th and a win on 13, then kept pace with Arnoux until the match ended on the 16th.
“It was a tough match,” Stasi said. “She (Arnoux) is a solid player. I played with her in the qualifying round and she was very nice to play with. She played very well and I was lucky because she gave me a couple of openings and I was able to take advantage.”
After the qualifier on Tuesday, Stasi is off to the Women’s Southern Amateur Championship. With the momentum she has from winning this event, it could be a very interesting summer.
In the consolation flight finals, 2005 and 2008 Florida Women’s Amateur champion Gennifer Mendez defeated high school junior Carianne Wright 5 and 4.
Jacksonville’s Leslie Smith scored a 2-and-1 victory against Maria Marino, of Coral Springs, to capture First Flight honors.
In the Second Flight, Sandie St. Onge, of Jensen Beach, defeated Boca Raton’s Joyce Martin 3 and 2.
The Third Flight went to Kayla Connors, from Lakeland, when she defeated Boynton Beach’s Karen Hall by a 5-and-4 tally.
Mary Lafferty, from Boynton Beach, took home the Fourth Flight trophy after defeating Bal Harbor’s Peggy Butts 2 and 1.