COLUMBIANA — Alex Casi has always had a solid short game. The 2002 graduate of East Palestine High School was a standout for the Bulldogs’ golf squad and went on to play at the collegiate level for the University of Maryland. It was her drives that needed a little work.
But with a little help from her now fiance and a whole lot of time on the practice rage, Casi is set to compete in next week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Golf Championship at Erin Hills Golf Course in Erin Hills, Wis.
Casi qualified for the event by posting a 4-over 72 at Manakiki Golf Course in Willoughby.
“I’ve always had good touch,” she said. “It was always a case of if I could just hit the ball a little better.”
Casi started working with fiance and Copeland Hills and Castle Shannon golf pro Paul Wackerly last July, and it’s already paid dividends.
“There were a lot of little things that I’ve done wrong,” she said. “Paul didn’t want to give me any quick fixes, so we really had to start over to get things right. A year later, I’m just now getting into a consistent groove.”
Casi will make the trek to Erin Hills today to get in a few practice rounds before the start of competition on Monday. Her solid short game will come in handy on the links-style course that sports large, undulating greens. Erin Hills opened in 2006, and was named the new public course of the year in 2007.
She will play 18 holes on Monday and Tuesday in hopes to be in the top 64 for match play competition that begins Wednesday and concludes Saturday.
The winner of the event receives exemption from Public Links sectional qualifying and also receives a five-year exemption from U.S. Open sectional qualifying.
“I’m pretty excited,” she said. “I’m a lot more mature now.” Casi qualified for the event in 2005 but her stay was short-lived.
“I don’t think I understood a lot of the technicalities then,” she said. “I’m a lot more level headed now. I played really well my senior year in high school, then I had some struggles. You just can’t play when you’re standing over the ball and wondering where it’s going to end up.”
Wackerly has helped her fix that, and Casi heads into the event as confident as ever.
For Casi though, she hopes the Public Links is just the beginning.
“I think I stated when I was 15 in the paper that the LPGA is my ultimate goal.”
That hasn’t changed.
Follow Casi’s progress all next week in the Salem News.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org