Martha Leach was 16 when she joined her older sister, Hollis Stacy, for a two-week journey on the LPGA Tour.
The timing couldn't have been better for making a favorable impression. Stacy was in the middle of a two-year reign as the U.S. Women's Open champion and laying the groundwork for 18 tour victories over a 15-year period.
Good stuff, right?
"I said, 'Oh my gosh, I do not want to do this,' " Leach said Thursday during a phone interview. "Back then, the golf courses weren't that great, the hotels weren't that great.
"They had a great following, but I thought this is not what I want to do."
Instead, Leach went on to play collegiate golf at Georgia, then devoted herself to her husband, John, and a daughter, Madison. Fitting her passion for golf in between the seams of family and work, Leach reached a pinnacle in her amateur career last October by defeating her former college teammate, Laura Coble, for the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur title.
Leach, 48, will try to defend that title Sept. 25-30 at Wichita Country Club. The Hebron, Ky., resident will be part of a field of 130 golfers that converge on Wichita for the six-day championship, which is conducted by the U.S. Golf Association.
The Women's Mid-Amateur is open to golfers 25 and older with a USGA handicap index not exceeding 9.4. Sectional qualifying rounds will be conducted at 25 courses across the country in late August and early September, including an 18-hole qualifier Sept. 1 at Wichita Country Club.
Leach is one of 20 golfers already guaranteed a spot in the field by virtue of past accomplishments. She has played in 21 of the previous 23 Women's Mid-Amateurs, third most in the championship's history.
While Stacy added a third U.S. Women's Open title in 1984 to give her six career USGA titles, Leach competed in 45 USGA championships before earning her first victory last year at Golden Hills Golf and Turf Club in Ocala, Fla.
Leach's previous best finish in a USGA event was at the 1991 U.S. Women's Amateur at Hutchinson's Prairie Dunes. She reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Amy Fruhwirth.
Her caddie for that event — and for her victory last fall — was her husband, now the director of golf at Traditions Golf Club in northern Kentucky.
"We realized we had a good thing going," Leach said. "He continues to caddie for me, mostly at USGA events. I've fired him before, but we get along good."
Leach, a substitute teacher, said after last year's victory that mid-amateurs have a passion for golf "and their priorities straight." One of 10 children, Leach said she has had no regrets passing up a professional golf career.
"I just really wanted to wake up in the same bed next to my husband as many mornings as I could," Leach said. "I never really wanted to do the tour. Hollis said I owed her a lot for showing me that."