WICHITA, Kan. – Twenty-six-year-old Alexandra Casi of East Palestine, Ohio, shot even-par 72 Saturday to take the early first-round stroke-play lead in the weather-delayed 24th U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at the 6,209-yard Wichita Country Club course.
Half of the 132-player field had afternoon tee times but endured a 2-hour 16-minute weather delay. Thirty-nine players were still on the course when play was suspended due to darkness at 7:25 p.m. after a heavy rainstorm saturated the course in some places. Play will resume at 8 a.m. CDT; the second round of stroke-play qualifying will also begin as scheduled at 8 a.m. Casi may have bolted to the lead, but she had close pursuers. Two-time Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi (formerly Meghan Bolger), 32, of Oakland Park, Fla., and Pamela Kuong, 49, of Wellesley, Mass., trailed Casi by one stroke. Jennifer Lucas, 29, of Knoxville, Tenn., carded a 74; and Katy Treadwell, 28, of Oklahoma City, Okla., came in with a 75.
Stasi was in the first group of the afternoon wave to finish. She waited out the afternoon suspension by watching college football.
“We’ve all been there,” said Stasi, who missed only two fairways, both after the suspension of play. “I knew I only had three holes to go and prepared for them mentally.”
Playing in just her third USGA championship, Casi started ominously by duck-hooking her first drive on No. 1, which led to a bogey. She quickly gained back the stroke and more with a 40-foot birdie putt on the second hole and another birdie on No. 3.
“You have to minimize mistakes on the greens,” said Casi, who will turn professional immediately after the championship and play some mini-tour events before attending LPGA Tour Qualifying School.
Casi is nothing short of being well-rounded. She’s dabbled as a pianist (mastering Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique in C Minor Opposition No. 13 when she was 12), began competitive golf at 14, took gymnastics, became a table tennis prodigy (beating one of Japan's highest-ranked players in a 33-point handicap division) and ran track at Youngstown State University, which ultimately stoked her competitive juices to try two triathlons. And, oh, she runs 30 miles a week.
“I can’t sit still,” said Casi laughing. “The only bad thing about qualifying for this is that I can’t compete in a women’s triathlon in Akron [Ohio].”
Casi, who failed to qualify for match play at the 2005 and ’08 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, simply grinded her way around the course with caddie-boyfriend Paul Wackerly alongside. She consistently burned edges of holes and hovered around one over par most of the sunny and warm day.
Lucas stayed close by taking what the course offered. She had two birdies, both of which were inside 10 feet, on Nos. 5 and 11. The birdie on No. 5 was the more rewarding of the two after she blocked her drive right before using a 6-iron to stick her approach shot within 4 feet.
She credited her caddie-husband, Ryan, for her stellar play.
“I can’t play without him,” said Lucas, who lost in the second round of match play last year. “He knows my game, knows at what points to go for it and he knows exactly what to say to get me motivated.”
Mohler, 56, of Bethlehem, Pa., the 2010 USA Curtis Cup captain, turned in a 4-over 76 but affirmed that it felt more like a 72 because of the length of the course. She came out of the chute missing makeable birdie putts on the first and second holes.
“I thought I hung in there,” said Mohler, who three-putted once during her round.
The key to solving the course, she added, could be traced to the greens.
“You really have to putt well. You really do. It’s all about feeling and all about the speed,” she said.
Defending champion Martha Leach, 48, of Hebron, Ky., who has played in all but one U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, had difficulty with her ball-striking on the way to a 13-over 85. Leach took the disappointing round in stride saying, “I played like a chumpion and not a champion.”
She refused to blame the William H. Diddel design. Leach, sister to six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy, sprayed the ball most of the round, causing her to wonder where the next shot would go.
“It was not because of nerves,” she said. “I’m sensing there’s pressure, but I just want to play well. I haven’t been playing well.”
After the second round of stroke play concludes Sunday evening, the field will be reduced to 64 players for match play. The first round of match play is scheduled for Monday, followed by the second and third rounds on Tuesday. The quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Wednesday, and the 18-hole final will take place Thursday.