Maybe it’s fitting that the inaugural Mid-Amateur and Senior Amateur championships of the Ladies National Golf Association last week were wire-to-wire wins by players who have a combined seven USGA titles between them.
With the tempered mettle of champions, Meghan Stasi and Sarah Ingram handled windy conditions, desert target golf and the hard-to-hold greens of the Ironwood Course at Arizona’s Anthem Golf and Country Club better than their competitors.
But maybe it’s also fitting because Stasi and Ingram already are experienced winners who have built playing legacies of excellence, and that matches the LNGA. The organization renowned for highly competitive “can’t-miss” events for several categories of players began in 1927, and most recently was known as the Women’s Trans National Golf Association. Among the past Trans National champions are Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias, Betsy Rawls, Nancy Lopez, Carol Semple Thompson, Sandra Haynie, Ellen Port and Lorena Ochoa.
“This is almost like a scripted Hollywood ending,” said LNGA president Joanne Walker. “To have such great names as Meghan and Sarah win is a rewarding way for the histories of these Championships to begin. It is way beyond any expectations.”
Stasi, of Oakland Park, Florida, with four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championships and a 2008 USA Curtis Cup appearance in her album of wins, took a five-stroke victory at the LNGA Mid-Amateur in a small but strong field that included fellow past-U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champions Lauren Greenlief and Kelsey Chugg.
The runner-up medal went to Dawn Woodard of Greer, South Carolina, an eight-time South Carolina Amateur champion who will form a side with Stasi in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball this week at Maridoe Golf Club in Dallas, Texas.
“The LNGA is a very special group,” said Stasi. “They have been around for years and are so well respected and professional. They have great volunteers and always have great golf courses. Next year, there will be a better showing for mid-amateurs.
“We’ve said we want more tournaments, and this is a great one to play in. The senior-ams always travel well. But this will get bigger and better for the mid-ams.”
Ingram, of Nashville, Tennessee, who will captain the United States team in August’s Curtis Cup Match in Wales, put an appreciative perspective on her six-stroke win in the Senior Amateur.
“To me, it’s a big deal,” said Ingram, who holds a place in the Tennessee Golf and Duke Athletics halls of fame. “It’s my first big win in my second career since I took 22 years off and now I have been back at it for three years. To break through and win is exciting. I finally have a Trans/LNGA title, which is exciting.”
Ingram, who also won three U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs and was runner-up at the 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur, was coaxed back into golf after her hiatus to serve as co-chair of the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Golf Club of Tennessee, where she holds membership.
In her latest national win, Ingram topped a field that included past USGA winners Lara Tennant, Mina Hardin and Corey Weworski.
“I hit some good shots coming home that I hadn’t done most of last year,” Ingram said. “I tried to take the mindset of the collegiate girls I have been watching. They just shake off bogeys and they are still going at it. I hit some good shots and it felt like when I was really good.”
Both players were impressed by the trophies, each called the Wilma Cup, in honor of the departed women’s golf advocate and LNGA leader Wilma Gilliland.
“It’s beautiful and I’ve heard all the stories,” Stasi said of the Wilma Cup. “We’ll put it on display at the restaurant.” Stasi and her husband, Danny, own and operate Shuck N Dive, a Cajun-inspired café in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Ingram was touched by the Wilma Cup as well saying: “Wilma was always so kind and so cute and supportive. To win a trophy with her name on it is exciting.”
Stasi, who coached college golf at Ole Miss, played in four U.S. Women’s Opens and dominated local golf wherever she lived (with eight Amateur Player of the Year honors from the Florida State Golf Association, and seven victories in the Women’s Match Play Championship staged by the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia).
She continues to focus on her competitive career as well as the family restaurant business, but now has another feather in her cap.
“It’s an honor to be part of the group,” Stasi said of being an LNGA champion. “I’ve played in the Amateur several times. We are fortunate now that there is a Mid-Am because it’s hard to compete against the young gals. It’s a great start for the inaugural.”
Ingram has competed for the United States at three Curtis Cups and two Women’s World Amateur Team Championships (with a gold medal in 1994), and she was an All-American at Duke University. This year she will attempt to qualify for both the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
But Curtis Cup duties also call. “I will have to have to go watch the girls play in a few different tournaments,” Ingram said.