June 30, 2023
A year ago, Philadelphia Cricket Club teaching pro Meaghan Francella accepted a sponsor’s exemption to play the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer. I wrote a column about the former LPGA winner’s experience, when she was accompanied by dozens of friends, fans, and her mother.
Francella had so fun she came back, receiving another exemption into the 2023 tournament.
We met at the practice range June 7, along with Justin Livonius, her caddie. His wife, Perry Swenson, befriended Francella when both were on tour years ago.
Livonius told me she had arranged for a bunch of admission passes.
Francella laughed when I suggested that bringing two to three hundred close personal friends along was a great way to keep earning sponsor’s invites. “I don’t know if it’s that many, but definitely over a hundred. The more you drink beer the more I get invited.”
Livonius checked her driver shots on the range with a Trackman launch monitor. He made occasional suggestions about set up or complimented her on her better swings. At one point Francella went back to the fitting trailer for a slight adjustment, which seemed to help.
Her driver club head speed ranged between 87 and 90 miles per hour, resulting in a tight draw or string-straight shot. Francella’s carry distances hovered around 210 yards, with the Trackman predicting a run out to 230-240 yards. One of her better drives, at 89.5 mph, carried 215 yards and finished 240 yards away.
Her driver speeds were a bit slower than the reported LPGA average of 94-95 mph.
I said, “I was watching you hit some very nice shots and looking longingly over at some of your younger competition at the speeds they can do. Are you slower than you were when you were on Tour?”
Francella said, “I don’t think so. I was never long. I definitely was in better shape when I was on tour, there’s no doubt about it. I have to play with what I got. I’m not 25 anymore which is fine. I’m 41 and I’m playing better golf than I did probably in my later years on tour. I played with a young girl, Morgan Métraux, yesterday, who’s 26. Beautiful golf swing, hits it longer than I do.”
She added, “I can still hit it well. It’s not about the distance for me. This golf course obviously is not as long as some of the others on tour, so I feel like I can still compete out here. It’s why I like playing this event, not to mention it’s close to Philly and close to home. ShopRite’s been a great sponsor for a long time for the LPGA. I always love coming back to Atlantic City.”
“So, a bit like Corey Pavin, then,” I suggested.
She laughed and said, “Exactly. He won the US Open so that’s fine. He did okay.”
We also discussed her regular work. “I coach a girl who plays at Germantown Friends. She just won the [PA] girls independent division.”
Francella had a ready response when asked for coaching tips at the high school/junior level.
She said, “I would say short game and putting for sure, and inside 100 yards. And keep your parents out of it. Honestly, I think some of the toughest things I’ve seen, juniors either when I played [as a junior] or taught, is sometimes the parents are way too involved. Just be mom and dad and get out of the way. Let the coaches do their thing, let the swing coach you hired do their thing. Let them have fun, more importantly. You don’t want to make it a job for them.”
Francella also noted, “I think being in good shape is always a plus. Stamina and endurance. I stress a lot of nutrition on the golf course, eating every few holes, and keeping energy levels up is very important. I think you have to be in shape, walking and playing and mentally you have to be strong.”
When the tournament began June 9, her fans showed up in droves. They were easy to spot with their matching white baseball caps and loud approval of every shot or putt Francella made.
Francella missed the cut after the June 10 second round, but her scores were respectable, as was her driving. A 6-over par in the first round and a one-under par second round put her ahead of dozens of others. She also averaged 242.8 yards on the two holes the LPGA staff measured.
I think she would accept another invitation.
Brockstedt wins AJGA Open tournament
Congratulations to Sawyer Brockstedt of Rehoboth Beach for her recent victory in the Three Little Birds Memorial AJGA Open, held June 20-22 at the Piedmont Club in Haymarket, VA.
She fired a three-under par 68 in the final 18 of the 54-hole event, including a birdie on the last hole, to force a playoff.
Brockstedt birdied the second hole of sudden death for her second American Junior Golf Association triumph.
She previously won an AJGA All-Star tournament in 2022 in Southern Pines, NC.
Brockstedt continued her play at a high level after her AJGA win.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior will be held July 17-22 at the Air Force Academy’s Blue Course in Colorado Springs, CO. The Women’s Amateur takes place Aug. 7-13 at Bel-Air CC in Los Angeles, CA.
Local club competition results
The Kings Creek CC Ladies 9-Hole group played a team game June 20 that required a match of cards to determine the order of finish.
Susan Julbe, Barb Fishel, Barbara Morales, and Juanita Wilson won first place. Betsi Fakler, Deb Chase, Prabha Karapurkar, and Terry Barrera took second. Lesley Corydon, Karen Harrington, Beth Cohen, and Tish Brey finished third.
The Mulligan’s Pointe Ladies 18-Hole group played a 2-person team game June 20, won by Pam Pichola and Wendy Michaelson.
Maxine Ansbach and Janece Hausch finished second. Peggy Clausen and Kathy Marks came in third.