By Murray Evans
OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s been a challenging past few months for Jade Staggs of Moore, but this week at the Women’s Oklahoma Golf Association State Amateur Championship brought her a welcome respite.
Staggs, who plays out of Earlywine Golf Club in southwest Oklahoma City, pulled away on the back nine to beat Taylor Neidy of Clinton 3 and 2 on Thursday at The Greens Country Club to win the 95th annual State Amateur title.
The state amateur title was Staggs’ first and, likely, her last, since she plans to turn pro later this year – a bit earlier than planned (more on that later). It was her second WOGA state title, along with the state junior championship she won in 2010.
"It’s my first summer not being in college and just being able to play and go wherever," Staggs said. "It’s been fun to just play more relaxed and not have more things on my plate and on my mind. That’s been really helpful."
The 21-year-old Staggs began her college career during the 2010-11 academic year at Oklahoma State, but left Stillwater after one year and transferred to Oklahoma. She struggled a bit as a sophomore in 2011-12, posting a 78.67 stroke average, but improved that average to 74.67 during the 2012-13 academic year.
But a disagreement between Staggs and Oklahoma coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell led to a parting of the ways by the end the spring season. Staggs said Thursday she plans to finish her degree at OU but won’t play golf for the Sooners in 2013-14.
That situation wasn’t all Staggs had to deal with this spring. Her family’s home escaped damage in the May 20 tornado that slammed through Moore, but another round of severe storms on May 31 caused significant roof damage. Staggs has been living in a hotel while the home is repaired.
Weather brought more challenges this week, as matches in the tournament had to be postponed Tuesday because of heavy rain in the Oklahoma City area. But after a marathon Wednesday, the field was whittled down to Staggs and Neidy, a 21-year-old standout at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.
Neidy, who finished 34th individually at the NCAA Division II Championship this spring and led the Bronchos to a 10th-place team finish, took a quick lead. She found a greenside sand trap on the par-3 No. 2 but got up and down, while Staggs missed a par putt.
That turned out to be the highlight of Neidy’s round, as she didn’t win another hole.
"She hits it a long ways," Neidy said of Staggs. "She’s a solid player. She’s not going to make a lot of mistakes. She keeps it in play and I was really impressed with her putting."
Staggs evened the match at the par-4 No. 5, two-putting for par while Neidy hit her second shot left of the green before chipping and two-putting. The match stayed square through the turn, which Staggs said encouraged her.
"All week, really, the back nine was the turning point for me, in every match," Staggs said. "I struggled on the front nine in all of my matches and was down most of the time after nine holes. Then I would hit 10, 11 and 12 and that’s when I would kind of earn my way back."
Sure enough, on the par-5 No. 10, Neidy’s first shot went into the right rough and she had to punch into the fairway before getting onto the green with her third shot. Staggs made it onto the green in two and two-putted to take her first lead.
On No. 11, Staggs sank a 25-foot birdie putt to win the hole and go 2-up.
"It was pretty lucky to make that putt," she said. "I just tried to read it the best I could and really tried to commit to it and it fell for me. That was a big putt there, because I felt like I had a bit more comfort being 2-up rather than just one."
Neidy ran into more trouble off the tee on the par-5 No. 16, hitting her tee shot into the left rough, then putting her second shot into a greenside bunker before punching out and missing a 30-foot putt, leaving her no choice but to concede the hole.
"It’s unfortunate that’s the way it ended, because I never really want to win like that," Staggs said. "But I was happy that I was able to step up first and hit a good drive. I think that put a little more pressure on her, because she either needed to tie and win that hole."
Staggs was chosen for the WOGA Fore-State Team, which will face teams from Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri in Joplin, Mo., in early August. After that, it’s back to OU to finish up her degree and focus on preparing herself for pro competition.
"That’s really my goal right now, is to try to get to the next level and do everything I can now through next May to make sure that I’m ready for it financially and physically and athletically as a golfer," she said.
95th WOGA State Amateur Final Results
at The Greens Country Club, Oklahoma City
July 18, 2013
Jade Staggs def. Taylor Neidy 3 and 2
Championship Flight Consolation
Amber Hensley def. Bethany Darrough 3 and 2
Jaime Branch def. Amanda Johnson 3 and 2
President’s Flight Consolation
Megan Blonien def. Madison Herron 4 and 3
Nan Dyer def. Liz Langford 5 and 3
A Flight Consolation
Jennifer Hoyt def. Kasi Kinzie 1 up
Elaine Davis def. Leslie Young 2 up
B Flight Consolation
Brigid Kennedy def. Kathy Parrott 3 and 2
Sharon Stieber def. Nita Williams 6 and 5
C Flight Consolation
Susan Hall def. Pat McKamey 3 and 2
Louise Johnson def. Patti McKinnon 2 up
D Flight Consolation
Leigh Ann Veneziano def. Glenda Radigonda 8 and 7
Kay Graves def. Nadine Lewis 19 holes
E Flight Consolation
Betty Jo Jobes def. Lynda French 6 and 4