LONG DRIVE CONTEST No qualifier, but Casi settles for consolation prize
The East Palestine High graduate will play golf at the University of Maryland.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
VIENNA -- Missing an opportunity to qualify for the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic only motivated East Palestine's Alexandra Casi for her next challenge: The long drive contest.
Carrying a drive 282 yards, Casi won the Schwebel's Long Drive Contest for amateurs Tuesday at Squaw Creek Country Club.
"The nervousness never goes away," said Casi, who finished second last year. "You still get the shakes."
An East Palestine High graduate, Casi joined LPGA golfer Maria Hjorth, who won the professional competition with a 309-yard drive, as the day's top hitters, each besting a field of five others.
Casi attempted to qualify for the tournament Monday, but she missed out by shooting an 8-over-par 80 at Squaw Creek.
"It was very disappointing," Casi said. "I thought I could have done it, but it slipped through my fingers. I had a couple of bad breaks and I just couldn't pull it together."
She certainly did in the long drive contest, in which each amateur golfer received four shots. After spraying her first two shots wide, Casi hit her winning shot down the middle of the fairway.
Did she intimidate her competitors by hitting the long drive so early in the rotation?
"They might of expected it," Casi said of her distance. "In [Saturday's qualifying], I hit good drives."
Casi, whose career long drive of 285 yards came last week, has been averaging around 280 yards.
"It's determination and clubhead speed," she said. "I've been lifting weights a lot more and I'm hitting consistently."
Casi, a former state long jump champion and a runner-up last season at the state golf tournament, is set to begin a new career at the next level -- collegiate golf. She will join the University of Maryland golf team in late August.
"It's the ACC, with Duke and Wake Forest. It's some of the best girls in the country," she said on her decision to become a Terrapin. "It's 20 minutes from [Washington] D.C., and my brother [Trent] lives in Virginia."
Casi, who plans to major in nutritional science, already has goals she wants to reach while at Maryland, including player of the year honors in the ACC.
"I hope to meet a lot of people, get a lot of connections and get noticed by someone," she said.
Finishing behind Casi in the amateur field were Kristen DiGattano (251 yards) of Gibsonia, Pa., Denise Barnholdt (239) of Beaver Falls, Pa., Marilyn Woods (218) of Hubbard, Michelle Rura (172) of Howland and Ginger Dewley of Youngstown.
In the LPGA competition, Hjorth overcame Michelle McGann, who appeared to have the $2,000 first-place prize secured.
In the first of two rounds, McGann took the lead with a 304-yard drive, only to have Hjorth reach 309 in the second round for the victory.
"I knew it was going to be pretty tough," Hjorth said of beating McGann. "I was just trying to reach 300, and I guess I got a good spot out there on the fairway."
Hjorth, who has been working with a personal trainer, ranks fifth in LPGA driving distance, averaging 266.1 yards.
"We can hit it far, too. It's not just the guys," said Hjorth, a native of Sweden who resides in Scottsdale, Ariz. "With new equipment and girls getting stronger, it's important to show that we can hit farther than people think."
Finishing behind Hjorth and McGann were Tamie Durdin (299 yards), Annette DeLuca (295), Jean Zedlitz (295) and Dorothy Delasin (278).