August 6, 2007

Hollis Stacy's junior hat trick recalled

Retired from the LPGA Tour since 2001, Stacy finds her pets, USGA volunteer duties and charity work keep her busy.

Retired from the LPGA Tour since 2001, Stacy finds her pets, USGA volunteer duties and charity work keep her busy.

Decades before the summer calendars of top junior golfers were filled with tournaments every week, the best young players made the most of their limited appearances. Nothing was bigger than the USGA national championship, and nobody was better than Hollis Stacy.

Tiger Woods became the first golfer to win three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur titles (1991-93), but Stacy accomplished the feat in the U.S. Girls' Junior more than two decades earlier. The Savannah, Ga., native became, at 15, the event's youngest champion when she defeated Jane Fassinger in 1969. A year later she beat Janet Aulisi and, in a final match regarded as one of the best in USGA history, edged Amy Alcott in 1971.

Stacy completed her historic hat trick at the par-73, 6,052-yard Augusta (Ga.) CC. The temperatures were torrid as was the golf played by the teens. The duo made 10 birdies and only three bogeys, and Stacy was four under in her 19-hole win.

That Stacy was playing in her home state for a gallery that included six of her nine siblings and her parents, Tillie and Jack, eased the pressure -- but there was a bit of familial embarrassment. Because Stacy's mother was busy with her work on the tournament committee, her father was in charge of dressing the younger Stacy girls, ages 5, 6 and 7. "My mother warned her friends she didn't know what my sisters would be wearing, and she was correct," says Hollis, whose siblings showed up in velvet dresses despite the summer swelter.

The heat also got to Stacy's caddie, Marty Eckles, who, unbeknownst to her, left Stacy's clubs outside the night before the final. "At least they appeared on the [practice] green the next morning," says Stacy, who was going up against a familiar foe in the long-hitting Alcott, her first-round opponent in the 1969 championship.

Alcott's power appeared to give her an advantage on the first extra hole, a 364-yard par 4, when a 250-yard drive left her just an 8-iron into the green. But Stacy's 4-iron second shot finished 10 feet away, and after Alcott missed her 25-foot birdie attempt, Stacy put her nerves aside, took a couple of deep breaths and sank the winning putt.

Stacy continued to build on those learning experiences, playing a year at Rollins College and for the victorious 1972 U.S. Curtis Cup team. Inspired by JoAnne Carner's move to the LPGA Tour, Stacy used college golf as a springboard for a professional career.

Seasoned by her junior triumphs, she had no trouble finding success on other USGA courses during her 26-year career, counting U.S. Women's Open titles in 1977, '78 and '84 among her 18 LPGA victories. "The courses at the Open were a little longer," Stacy says, "and people used 2- and 3-irons, meaning they missed a lot of greens. I think I had an advantage because of my short game."

Stacy, 53, retired from competition in 2001 but is still involved with the game. A member of the U.S. Girls' Junior committee, as her mother once was, she ran the local qualifier this year near her home in Lakewood, Colo. Stacy also has tried her hand as a course architect, designing Blackhawk GC in central Texas, and is on the advisory board at EC4 Technologies, a security-credentials company.

She also finds time to raise funds for Project Angel Heart, a Denver-based organization that serves meals to shut-ins with life-threatening diseases. "I have lived the American dream in every aspect," says Stacy, "and now I hope to make a very big impact in helping the planet."