Convincing victory

SEBRING - Meghan Stasi shot a 2-under 70 to win the 59th Harder Hall Women's Invitational by an impressive eight shots on Saturday.

Stasi, who started the final round tied for first place with University of Tennessee freshman Hannah Pietila, continued her steady play and finished with a four-day score of 1-over 289.

Pietila struggled on the back nine en route to a 78 and tied for second place with Emmy Martin at 297.

This was Stasi's first win in this prestigious amateur tournament in seven attempts.

"It's great and I actually feel young today," said the 35-year-old Stasi. "It's a younger crowd and it was fun to play all week and have a good showing.

"I just focused on my game and everything worked."

Stasi, a four-time U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur champion, led Pietila by one shot heading to the tight and demanding back nine on Saturday before the experienced Stasi put together a 2-under 34, while Pietila faltered down the stretch with a 41.

"I felt confident and solid," Stasi said. "Everything is in front of you on this course and you have to be able to hit a variety of shots."

Kristina Merkle was fourth with a score of 299, India Clyburn was fifth with a 302, Emmie Pietila and Laurn Whyte tied at 303, Isabelle Lendl was at 304 and Minami Levonowich and Lauren Coughlin tied at 305.

The tournament attracted a field of 134 golfers with players from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Spain and the United Kingdom vying for the coveted title.

In the first flight, Amanda Steinhagen won with a total of 307, Natalie Goodson placed second with a 310 and Chloe Ryan and Emily Gilbreth tied for third place at 311.

Clara Bronco Teixeira won the second flight with a score of 315, Brooke Kochevar was second with a 317 and Emily Podzielinski finished third at 319.

In the third flight, Brianna Midkiff was first with a 328, Paige Moffat came in second place with a 334 and Erin Fitzpatrick was third at 341.

The Ben Roman division played three days and in the Lancy Smith flight, Babs McIntosh and Nancy Newberry each finished with a score of 276, while Sherie Warnock was at 285.

In the Tish Preuss flight, Mary Rhodes was first with a 260, Annie Pietila came in second with a 264 and Mary Bierman finished third at 267.

Nancy Jackson won the Marge Burns flight with a total of 247, Clate Aydlett placed second at 248 and Karen Smith was third with 250.

The competitors battled a variety of conditions during the four-day tournament with cold and wind the first two days, rain during the third round and gusty breezes the final 18 holes.

Stasi, a past member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team and the most decorated player in the field besides tournament chairman Carol Semple Thompson, has not been invited to play on this year's squad, but a win in the Harder Hall Invitational may bring her some notoriety.

"Sometimes winning these kind of tournaments helps, sometimes it doesn't," said Stasi, who lives in Oakland Park.

The Curtis Cup is a biennial competition pitting women from the United States against Ireland and Great Britain. The 38th Curtis Cup Match will take place at St. Louis Country Club, June 6-8.

"I don't know what their thinking is," Stasi said. "I just want to play some golf and have a good time doing it."