SEBRING, Fla. – Meghan Stasi rounded the curve just past the 18th tee box and heard a loud thud. Her golf bag had fallen off the back of the cart. It was the only thing that slowed the 35-year-old’s run at the 59th Harder Hall Invitational title.
“I actually feel young today,” said Stasi, who finished eight strokes ahead of a pair of 18-year-olds to win her first Harder Hall title.
For nearly 20 years this championship has been dominated by hotshot juniors and college All-Americans, many of whom have gone on to LPGA fame. When tournament chair Carol Semple Thompson handed Stasi her hardware for the week, it must have been a bit like looking in the mirror. Thompson, a three-time winner of this event, is an amateur legend in the women’s game, and Stasi, a four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Am champ, is well on her way.
Stasi, a former head coach at Mississippi and a Tulane alumna, made the turn Saturday with a one-stroke lead over Hannah Pietila, a freshman at Tennessee. Pietila, however, missed three consecutive greens to start the back nine and failed to get up and down each time. Stasi birdied two holes on the inward nine (one from a 75-yard pitchout from behind a tree) to steadily increase her lead as the sunny, windswept afternoon wore on.
Stasi closed with a 70, the day’s low round, to finish eight strokes ahead of Pietila (78) and Emmy Martin (74), another 18-year-old and TCU signee. Stasi finished at 1-over 289 for the tournament after rounds of 73-72-74-70. This marked her second victory on the Orange Blossom Circuit. Stasi also won the 2012 Jones/Doherty Championship.
Pietila later conceded that she had no idea she was chasing a four-time USGA champion.
“I’ve been with her on the cart for two days,” said Pietila, laughing.
By far the most decorated player in the field outside of Thompson, Stasi isn’t sure whether the Harder Hall victory will impress the Curtis Cup selection committee. She wasn’t among the 14 players invited to the practice session scheduled for later this month at Champions Golf Club in Houston. Eight players will be chosen to represent the U.S., June 6-8 at St. Louis Country Club.
When asked if she was surprised to be left off the practice squad, Stasi offered a “no comment.”
Unlike the Walker Cup, there is no guaranteed spot for a mid-amateur on the Curtis Cup team. Stasi says that’s just fine, noting the men’s mid-amateur game is considerably deeper than the women’s side.
Indeed, Stasi is one of the few female mid-amateurs who can compete with young junior and college hotshots, and she carries the biggest schedule of her peers, playing in amateur events worldwide.
Stasi met her husband, Danny (“Staz”), on Jan. 13, 2008, which was the day she found out she had made the Curtis Cup team. Stasi’s only Curtis Cup appearance is among the biennial competition’s most memorable as Danny Stasi proposed on the Swilken Bridge at St. Andrews after the U.S. beat GB&I at the “Home of Golf.”
Danny Stasi owns Shuk ’N Dive Cajun Cafe in Fort Lauderdale, and with the New Orleans Saints playing the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL playoffs, Stasi was keen to get back home Saturday night to catch the second half.
There’s already much to celebrate.