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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 7/16/2014 - Updated: 6 days ago

Amateur gets master class

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Mariah Stackhouse, left, and Stacy Lewis walk off the 9th green at Tuesday’s  practice at the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows. Mariah Stackhouse, left, and Stacy Lewis walk off the 9th green at Tuesday’s practice at the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows.
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Earlier this year, Mariah Stackhouse was excited to have been invited to play in the Kraft-Nabisco Championship.

“Super excited,” she said. “It’s a major championship. But …”

There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?

Finishing up her sophomore season at Stanford University, Stackhouse, of Riverdale, Ga., took another look at the schedule and realized the Kraft conflicted with a college tournament.

“That’s my team, Stanford, and I’m a factor on the team and didn’t want to miss contributing,” she said Tuesday. “I had committed to the Kraft, but I didn’t feel good about it.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view slideshow.

So she withdrew from the LPGA major. It made a few headlines, and Stacy Lewis is one who noticed.

“I’d done the same thing, turning down an invite to play in the Kraft in 2008 because of a spring tournament when I was still at the University of Arkansas,” Lewis said. “So I emailed her to let her know how much I respected her decision.”

Stackhouse was thrilled with the correspondence. “I figured if Stacy Lewis liked my decision that made it OK.”

As they emailed back and forth Lewis told Stackhouse she’d have plenty of chances to play in LPGA tournaments and promised her a practice round the next time their paths crossed.

That was Tuesday at Highland Meadows, as both prepare for this week’s Marathon Classic.

Lewis, a Toledo native and the world’s No. 1-ranked player, and Stackhouse paired up for a nine-hole practice round.

Stackhouse might have had second thoughts about the Kraft-Nabisco event, but the summer calendar was clear and she jumped at the chance to be a sponsor’s exemption in the Marathon. 

She also jumped at the chance to spend a couple hours in this classroom with Lewis.

“It means the world to me to play a practice round with her,” Stackhouse said. “I focused on her the whole round. I wanted to observe and see what makes her Stacy Lewis, what makes her such a force out here.”

Stackhouse watched as Lewis referred to notes on shots she had hit at the Meadows in past years, plus saw her take notes on lines of putts on the green and from chipping areas. She also saw plenty of Lewis’ calling card, crisp iron play.

And Lewis saw a youngster with a lot of game.

“Today was really the first time I’ve seen her play,” Lewis said. “She has a really solid, very consistent golf swing. She’s going to college, and staying in college, and she’s learning how to win there.”

Stackhouse has set an NCAA scoring record with a round of 61 and, earlier this summer, became the first African-American player in the 80-year history of the Curtis Cup, the premier amateur team event pitting women from the United States and Great Britain.

This will be the amateur’s third time in an LPGA event — the first invite came when she was still in high school — and her first serious competition since helping the Americans to an easy win in the Curtis Cup matches.

She played her first practice round Sunday and said she fell in love with the greens at Highland Meadows.

“They’re beautiful and I really like how small they are,” she said. “I studied up, and I know there have been some low scores here through the years. That may be the reason why. If you’re playing well and hit a lot of greens, they’re small enough that you’re going to have a lot of not-too-long birdie opportunities.”



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