CHARLESTON, S.C. — Maria Fassi's life is currently moving at warp speed. In April, the Arkansas product finished runner-up in the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur, then claimed the individual title by four shots at the SEC Women's Golf Championship in Alabama 13 days later. Ten days after that, she medaled in her U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifier at the Country Club of Ocala in Florida. A few weeks later, she won the individual title at NCAA Women's Championship in Arkansas, edging out Florida's Sierra Brooks by four shots.
It's been hectic, to say the least.
But that stretch made Fassi more than equipped to handle what was coming her way next: a professional debut in the U.S. Women's Open at the Country Club of Charleston. Amidst all the chaos, she was able to open with a one-over 72 on Thursday, but Friday proved to be a challenge. Through 12 holes she was three over on the round, dropping her to four over for the tournament and in danger of missing the cut. She picked up consecutive birdies on on the fourth and fifth holes (her 13th and 14th) but a bogey at 15, what ended up being her final hole of the day as play was suspended due to darkness, the result of a weather delay earlier in the round, put her back at three over for the tournament, right on the cut line.
With play set to resume at 7:15 a.m., Fassi set the alarm for 4:30 a.m., and responded with a six-hour stretch that could be best described as frantic. She made three consecutive pars to make the cut on the number, then fired a three-under 68 to vault into the top 25. Apparently, the fast-paced style suits her well.
"It was a very quick turnaround," said Fassi. "I went to bed at like 10:30 and had to wake up at 4:30 this morning to be ready to go at 7:00. It was definitely different, well, that quick of a turnaround, and then also just playing to make the cut was definitely something I'm not used to."
Once she did make the cut, she reverted back to her dominant form, going out in four-under 32 and producing one of the loudest roars of the week with a birdie at the ninth. Much of the noise came from her large contingent of family and friends on site, who were literally singing her name in unison as she signed autographs and took pictures with fans soon after the round. All the support certainly helped her play.
"I think my family is key in all of my success, and getting all my family members to be out here this week with me is very special. We don't get a lot of time together, the six of us, so it's nice to have some quality time with them and, of course, to share my first professional start.
"As you can hear, they're pretty loud so that's always fun. I think it just makes it way more special."
It wasn't just her family, either. Fassi has drawn some of the biggest crowds this week, some of that due to her appearance in the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur, held here at the Country Club of Charleston, and much more of it due to her runner-up finish in the ANWA, when the world was watching.
"It's so nice. I was saying earlier how [the fans] have been amazing to me this week. I mean, there was people at 7:50 in the morning today when I was finishing those last three holes, so that's very special to see. And it was nice just to walk and see people on the sidelines and cheering me on and saying good things while I was walking.
"So it's great to be here. I know I've said a million times this place is really special to me, and they definitely impact that."
Fassi's round put her at even par for the tournament, not quite in contention but within striking distance of the top 10. Wherever she ends up finishing, she's already considered it a successful week in her pro debut.
"I've been pretty solid, I think, overall. I've made a few mistakes that I would love to take back, but I've also made great shots and really good saves. So I guess I'm really happy with the way I'm playing and the way I'm reacting to the bad and the good shots and stuff. So I'll just rate myself with a 9 [out of 10] or something like that."