Stasi begins match play with victory

The reigning champion didn't play at Wichita Country Club on Monday, but the two U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur winners before Martha Leach did.

And in one of the unique twists of weekend qualifying, 2006 and '07 champ Meghan Stasi and 2008 winner Joan Higgins ended up on the first tee together at midday, waiting to battle each other.

Taking advantage of her superior length off the tee, Stasi, a 32-year-old from Oakland Park, Fla., defeated Higgins 4 and 2 in the first round of match play in the U.S. Golf Association championship for golfers 25 and older.

"Whoever makes it into match play is going to be good, so you just have to be prepared and get ready for each match like it's a new day," Stasi said.

Stasi, the No. 3 seed in the 64-player bracket, joined medalist Ellen Port, Corey Weworski and Amber Marsh Elliott as former Women's Mid-Am champions who advanced past the opening round of match play. The second and third rounds are scheduled for today, when the field will be reduced from 32 competitors to eight.

Stasi, a former University of Mississippi golf coach, won the first hole with a birdie and never trailed Higgins, a Glendora, Calif., resident who became the championship's oldest winner two years ago at 52.

Higgins routinely found herself 40 to 50 yards short of Stasi off the tee, forcing her to try to compensate around the greens.

"It doesn't weigh on me if I hit fairways, but there were a couple shots where I had to punch out," said Higgins, who battled to stay one-hole down at the turn. "I'd try to hit it just a bit too hard and I'd put it in the rough.... Then I thought I'd made a couple of putts, which didn't go in, so I didn't really put any pressure on her."

Stasi meticulously worked her way around the 6,209-yard layout, setting up good angles for approach shots with her accuracy off the tee. After a couple missed opportunities to win holes, Stasi rolled in an 8-foot birdie at the 355-yard 14th to go 3 up. She finished the match two holes later with a conceded birdie after Higgins mishit her second shot into the rough and couldn't save par.

Next up for Stasi is Houston's Marilyn Hardy, who outlasted Canadian Tanis Hastmann in a 19-hole match.

"It was pretty steady on my end," said Stasi, a member of the victorious 2008 U.S. Curtis Cup team. "You've got to make some birdies out there and you've got to play well to win."

Port, who earned the top seed with a pair of 73s in stroke-play qualifying, also won 4 and 2 against Lea Anne Brown of Mount Pleasant, S.C. Port's road to victory was bumpy at times, but she maintained the lead from the seventh hole until the end.

No. 2 seed Katy Treadwell of Oklahoma City also advanced, defeating USGA golf rules associate Shannon Hare-Rouillard 4 and 3. The highest seed to lose was No. 4 Patti Hogeboom of Canada, who fell to 2003 Women's Mid-Am champion Marsh Elliott 2 and 1.