Danny Stasi paced nervously around Wichita Country Club's back nine on Thursday while his wife, Meghan, clung to the lead in the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur match-play final against Carol Robertson.
It was the first time the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., restaurant owner had been in the position of watching his wife try to take the final step toward a U.S. Golf Association title.
Meanwhile, the woman he proposed to two years ago on the Old Course at St. Andrews stayed calm. Fighting off a worthy challenge from Robertson on the closing holes, Stasi won 2-up for her record-tying third Women's Mid-Am title.
"I'm feeling a lot of different things right now, relief and mostly just excitement," said the 32-year-old Stasi. "We have to play such great golf to make it through today and to make it on top."
Never miss a local story.
Stasi, a former golf coach at the University of Mississippi, matched stroke-play medalist Ellen Port and Sarah LeBrun Ingram as three-time winners in the championship for women 25 and older. This time, the formula included 11 holes of flawless golf from Stasi and seven in which Robertson, a reinstated amateur, forced the champion earn her prize.
"My caddie (former Wichita State golfer Zac Potter) kept saying, ‘Just keep playing your game. Keep doing your thing,’æ” said Robertson, 27, a Virginia Beach, Va., resident. "No matter how far up (your opponent is), they're going to feel some nerves, they're going to feel some tension."
Still, it was difficult to imagine a match that would reach the final hole. Stasi, the No. 3 seed entering match play, put on a spectacular putting display through the first half of the match, making six birdies while building a 4-up lead after the par-3 11th.
"I forced myself on several putts to really see the line, and I did," said Stasi, who only had one conceded birdie during her torrid start. "I had great vision today. I got the speed right and drained a few that I really needed to."
But Robertson, who played on the Futures Tour from 2007-09, swung the momentum by winning the 12th, 13th and 14th holes. Miscues by Stasi aided Robertson on Nos. 12 and 13, but the Old Dominion assistant golf coach hit a booming drive on the par-4 14th and sank a 3-foot birdie putt to cut Stasi's lead to 1 up.
"She missed a few shots — a little chink in the armor," Robertson said. "Luckily, I stayed in it. It took all I had just to keep up with her."
Stasi's calm demeanor served her well at the par-4 15th, which she won with a par after Robertson failed to get up and down from just off the green. But after taking the 2-up lead to the par-3 17th, Stasi gave one back when she three-putt from the back of the green.
Needing to win the 379-yard 18th to extend the match, Robertson's approach shot from the right rough came out heavy and settled in a bunker 30 yards from green. With Stasi on the green, lining up an 18-foot birdie attempt, Robertson hit her third shot to within 7 feet. Stasi lagged her third to within 18 inches, and when Robertson's par putt curled away from the hole, she gave Stasi a handshake and a hug to concede the match.
Stasi, who won the Women's Mid-Am as Meghan Bolger in 2006 and 2007, accepted the trophy she twice held as a single woman. During her march through the match-play bracket, her words were those of a golfer not getting ahead of herself.
"I have to say that was the first time I've touched it this week," Stasi said after she received the trophy. "I walked by it a million times and kept looking at it, but did not touch it."