Golf

Casi shoots par for Mid-Amateur lead

Alexandra Casi admits she's the type of person who has to be doing something.

Whether it's training for a triathlon, playing the piano or winning a table tennis match, the 26-year-old Casi prefers constant motion.

Add this to the Ohio native's do-everything list: Casi is the clubhouse leader in the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur at Wichita Country Club.

A soon-to-be pro, Casi fired an even-par 72 on Saturday to scale to the top of the leaderboard in the first round of stroke-play qualifying at the weather-riddled U.S. Golf Association championship for players 25 and older.

An afternoon shower suspended play for more than two hours for half of the 132-player field. The opening day of competition was called due to darkness at 7:25 p.m. with 39 golfers still on the course.

Casi, who started her round in near-perfect morning conditions, finished the day with four birdies and four bogeys.

"I just tried to minimize mistakes on the greens because I think that's the hardest thing out here," Casi said. "There's so much undulation in the greens."

Casi credited her boyfriend and caddie, Paul Wackerly, for helping her navigate the 6,209-yard, par-72 layout. Wackerly, who played on the Nationwide Tour in 2006, helped Casi choose sight lines for shots. Casi aided her cause with solid putting, rolling in 40-foot birdies at the par-4 second and par-3 17th holes.

Casi's score put her one shot in front of Floridian Meghan Stasi, the 2006 and 2007 Women's Mid-Am champion, and Pamela Kuong of Wellesley Hills, Mass. Both golfers carded 73s in the afternoon, while five other golfers were stranded on the course at 1 over.

"We've all been there, and you just have to get yourself mentally prepared for how you need to get back out there," Stasi said of the rain delay. "I knew I only had three holes to go. I just stayed loose and watched a little football."

Once the rain cleared, Casi returned to the practice green and watched ominous clouds move from the area. The championship started perfectly for Casi, a former Youngstown State track athlete who will soon head to Florida to begin preparing for the 2011 Futures Tour qualifying tournament.

"I just want to have a good last amateur tournament, play solid and have a good time," said Casi, this summer's Ohio Women's Amateur runner-up.

Casi's round gave her the inside track for a spot in the match-play portion of the championship, which begins Monday. The top 64 after today's round will advance.

Among those in jeopardy are defending champion Martha Leach of Hebron, Ky. Leach, a younger sister of three-time U.S. Women's Open champion Hollis Stacy, struggled to a 13-over 85.

"I played like a chumpion instead of a champion," Leach said.

Leach played in the morning, one group ahead of Wichita's Becky Thompson. Thompson, playing in her first USGA championship, struggled through the front nine before recovering to post an 83.

"I was just grinding the whole time," Thomas said. "The front nine, I didn't score well (45), and the back nine seemed to pan out OK."

Fortunately, neither Thomas nor Leach have to catch Casi, a two-time Ohio state high school long jump champion who also competed in gymnastics and mastered Beethoven compositions as a youth. Even this week's championship has forced her to put other pursuits on hold.

"The only bad thing about qualifying is that I didn't get to do the triathlon I usually do in September," Casi said of an all-women event in Akron, Ohio. "I've had a great summer golf wise, and I realized that better take precedence over my training."

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