Mid-ams Stasi, Leach loving the amateur life
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Martha Leach tries not to think the worst when she hears this line: You don’t play too bad for a lady your age.
“They mean it; they’re sincere,” insists Leach, 50, when talking about opponents half her age or younger. In that sincerity lies a good deal of truth. The 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion can more than hold her own in a field of junior and college players. She shot 4-over 76 Wednesday at Oceanside Country Club to land in a tie for 12th after the first round of the South Atlantic Amateur.
86th Annual South Atlantic Amateur: Round 1
View images from Round 1 on Wednesday of the 86th Annual South Atlantic Amateur at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fla.
Leach, who wears a fitted ballcap over her blond bob and chats easily with anyone who approaches (all of whom seem to know her), is one of a large number of mid-amateur players who frequent the Florida Orange Blossom Circuit. She’s one of only a few who remain competitive.
“Women our age, we play with passion, but we have other priorities in our lives,” she said. “I really do feel like I don’t want to be a role model, per se. I just feel like you can have it all.”
It’s a sentiment echoed in almost the exact easy tone by Meghan Stasi, 34. The former Ole Miss women’s golf coach has three U.S. Mid-Amateur titles to her credit (2006, ’07 and ’10), and as a South Florida native, always makes time for the Orange Blossom events. After a first-round 73 at Oceanside, Stasi is tied for third.
When Stasi isn’t playing golf, she moonlights as a manager for husband and caddie Danny’s restaurant, Shuck and Dive, in Fort Lauderdale. She, too, jokes about her age, but also notes that for the foreseeable future, this life is just fine.
“Up until just a couple years ago, I was recruiting the same kids,” Stasi said. “It’s great to be able to play against them and compete against them. I love this sport. I’m very fortunate to still love it, and I think I always will.”
Stasi represented the U.S. at the Curtis Cup the last time it was played in Scotland (2008). With three remaining picks for this year’s U.S. team, which will try to win the Cup for an eighth consecutive year, Stasi shrugs off any talk of making the team for the matches at Nairn (Scotland) Golf Club. It’s not something she thinks about.
“I’m just trying to play the best golf that I can," she said. "It’s not easy to make one, and to play in a second would be unbelievable."
It seems as if Stasi and Leach could talk about their love of the game all day without any thought of what’s in it for them. It’s possible that Leach’s outlook is a product of a unique upbringing. When she was 16, Leach spent two weeks on the LPGA tour with older sister Hollis Stacy, now 57. Leach realized that life wasn’t for her.
“She says I should thank her every day,” Leach said.
Stacy – with 18 career LPGA victories, including four major championships – will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May during Players Championship week. She asked Leach to give the introduction.
“I’m already nervous,” Leach said, a mild amount of terror already visible on her face. “I’ve already made one speech, an outline, but I’ll tinker with it.”
Though self-deprecating about her public speaking, Leach chats easily about how the game has changed since she was a teenager. She describes a much smaller pool of talent, much less focus on obtaining a college degree. She jokes about how much farther 16-year-old Kristine Odaiyar drives the ball than she does. (Odaiyar, it should be noted, calls Golden Hills Golf Club in Ocala, Fla., her home course, and was a volunteer the week Leach won the 2009 Women’s Mid-Am.) There is no worry in her voice.
“I like where women’s golf is going,” Leach said.