SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Oct. 10, 2012) -- Meghan Stasi completed one of the greatest comebacks in championship history on Tuesday morning and backed it up with a 2-up third-round victory over Kelley Nittoli in the afternoon to reach the quarterfinals of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
While Stasi survived the second day of match play at the 6,081-yard Briggs Ranch Golf Club, other big names, including defending and four-time champion Ellen Port and qualifying medalist Dawn Woodard did not.
Quarterfinal matches begin at 8:15 a.m. CDT on Wednesday. The winners advance to the semifinals, which are scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. The scheduled 18-hole final will be conducted Thursday morning at 9.
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, for female golfers 25 years of age and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Just when it looked like the two top-seeded players would both fall in the second round, Stasi, 34, of Oakland Park, Fla., completed the most improbable of comebacks, winning five of her last six holes to square her match with Lynne Cowan, 49, of Davis, Calif. She eventually won the match with a par on the 21st hole.
“I’ve never been that far down before, but I finally figured out something with my setup,” said Stasi, who made a 4-foot putt on the third playoff hole to advance. “I felt good after I teed off on 10 and knew I had a chance.”
In her third-round match, Stasi never trailed against San Antonio resident and former LPGA Tour player Kelley Nittoli, but things did get interesting on the second nine. After holding a 3-up lead through 10 holes, the three-time champion (2006, 2007 and 2010) lost holes 11, 12 and 13 before making a birdie at the 16th to pull ahead for good.
“I knew that I had to make some putts because she was playing so great,” said Stasi, who made a 25-foot birdie to close the match on the 18th. “Today was a grind, both mentally and physically, but I’m glad to be through [to the next round].”
In total, Stasi played 39 holes at Briggs Ranch on Tuesday. She will face 2009 runner-up Laura Coble, of Augusta, Ga., in the quarterfinals. Coble advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-and-1 win over 2003 champion Amber Marsh Elliott.
Past champion Corey Weworski, 50, of Carlsbad, Calif., was up to the task of defeating two decorated players on Tuesday, denying three-time qualifying medalist Woodard, of Greer, S.C., 1 up, in the morning, and 2010 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion, Mina Hardin, of Fort Worth, Texas, 4 and 3, in the afternoon.
“I was looking forward to the challenge of going up against a couple of great players who I’ve always respected,” said Weworski, the 2004 winner. “I slayed some giants today.”
Not to be overlooked is Weworski’s next opponent, Liz Waynick, 51, of Scottsdale, Ariz., who has not trailed at any point in her three matches. She won eight of her first nine holes in a near-record 9-and-7 second-round victory against Mary Jane Hiestand, of Naples, Fla., and survived a scare in the third round against Stefi Markovich, of Canada, defeating her in 21 holes.
Waynick’s performance in the 2012 Women’s Mid-Am is the furthest she has advanced in a USGA championship, surpassing her effort 35 years ago when, as a 16 year old, she lost to Nancy Lopez, 5 and 3, in the third round of the 1976 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“I started off well and hit it close on a bunch of the holes,” said Waynick of her morning match against Hiestand. “I just had it going.”
After halving the first two playoff holes of her afternoon match, Waynick hit a 4-wood to 15 feet on the 183-yard third and converted the birdie putt for a hard-fought win against the long-hitting Markovich.
“I was never close to her off the tee,” said Waynick, “but I just played my own game and kept hitting fairways and greens.”
Port, 50, of St. Louis, played well in her bid to collect a second USGA title in less than a month, but her third-round opponent, Christina Proteau, 29, of Canada, had seven one-putts on the first nine and closed out the defending champion, 3 and 1.
Port felt she missed some opportunities against Proteau, but overall was pleased with her 2012 season.
“The year was great,” said Port, who will be inducted in the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame later this year. “There are a lot of good players who never have the opportunity to go the distance, so I’m very thankful for everything that I’ve been a part of. It’s been a very special year for the Port family.”