GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — In the 1990s and early 2000s, Meghan Stasi stood by the 18th green and waited for stars such as Juli Inkster and Betsy King to finish their round in the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Stasi, then Meghan Bolger, cherished every golf ball or glove the players tossed to her and every autographed they signed.
This Friday, Stasi will fulfill one of her golf goals when she competes in the $1.5 million Classic on the Bay Course at Seaview Resort.
Stasi, one of the country’s top amateur players, received a sponsor exemption.
“This tournament means so much to me,” Stasi said. “It’s the first LPGA event I ever went to. It’s just special.”
Stasi, who turned 34 on Wednesday, grew up in Voorhees and attended Eastern High School.
She has plenty of local connections. Her grandparents live in Ocean City.
Each LPGA event offers two sponsors’ exemptions.
These exemptions are often given to promising young golfers or local standouts.
Past ShopRite Classic exemptions have gone to LPGA stars Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson.
Classic executive director Tim Erensen said the tournament received more than 100 requests for its two exemptions this year. In addition to Stasi, Marina Alex from Wayne (Bergen County) also received an exemption.
Alex, who was the 2010 and 2012 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for Vanderbilt, will be making her professional debut.
“You look at people who have local ties to the state and region,” Erensen said.
“Meghan has such a great run in amateur golf. This is her chance to come out and see how her game stacks up against the best players in the world.”
Stasi said she applied for an exemption for two reasons. The first is she feels good about her game.
And the second ...
“I’m not getting any younger,” she said with a smile.
Stasi was one of New Jersey’s top scholastic golfers. She went to Tulane University.
She now lives in Oakland Park, Fla., and became one of the country’s top amateur players.
She helped the U.S. win the 2008 Curtis Cup at St. Andrews in Scotland, and she’s won three U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion-ships.
Stasi was the head coach at the University of Mississippi from 2000-07. She gave up coaching, however, and she and her husband, Danny, now own a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., restaurant named the “Shuck ’N Dive.”
Stasi tried to make the tour in 2007, but fell a few shots short at the LPGA Qualifying School. She’s been content to remain an amateur since then.
“I just like golf to be fun,” she said.
She’s living like a professional this week, however, staying at Seaview. She’s no stranger to LPGA events.
She played in the 2011 Kraft Nabsico Championship, missing the cut. She also played in the 2007 and 2009 U.S. Women’s Opens, missing the cut in both those events also.
“I just want to make pars,” she said of her plan for the Classic, “and (mix in) some birdies.”
Stasi will have plenty of friends and family when she tees off at 12:50 p.m. Friday on the Bay Course’s 10th hole.
“I can remember the pros hitting all the shots out there,” she said. “Now I just want to be out there.”
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