Mexican Phenom Fassi Making Statements As New Pro
In the old days, a lot of us might not have noticed Maria Fassi at all for a while. The emergence of golf stars, to many fans, is designed to spot child prodigies. Then, they disappear for a little while, only to appear as teen phenoms. Since they are not yet playing on tour, we tip our hat to them, then change the channel to watch the pros.
Then they get into one college program or another on scholarship, but despite a significant fan base for collegiate golf, the normal weekender searching the remote for this week’s tournament doesn’t follow it closely. We may notice when someone wins an individual title, or a team that wins the NCAA, but for many, college golf is an incubator for later entry into the pro game. A few factors have of late begun to change that way of looking at the golf world, and has brought the name of Maria Fassi into view more quickly.
The first of several changes to consider is that Augusta opened its doors for a Women’s Amateur National Championship. A club like Augusta doing such a thing upsets some apple carts, and most think for the better. Then there are the various awards, but among the most prestigious is the ANNIKA award for top college golfer. Sorenstam is to be found all over this industry, and no one will ever successfully argue against her stature as a player. Likewise, her presence as a business force and a promoter of young talent is self-evident.
As to Augusta, the first tournament of its kind for women, Fassi didn’t win it. She was runner-up, but made it clear that she is an important part of the future. The Augusta event was not a purely collegiate tournament. We got to see it, and her. And, speaking of the ANNIKA award (not the one for major performances or the academy) Fassi has won it twice. Apparently, we can’t have a conversation about the next generation of stars without mentioning Maria Fassi.
In a scant number of months, Fassi has finished second at Augusta, won the individual NCAA title for the SEC by four strokes, and made an impressive debut at the U.S. Women’s Open in her first start as a pro. All told, she holds nine individual titles from her days at the University of Arkansas. That, however, is not the whole story. We don’t know the whole story yet, but one can feel it – there’s more.
I have scarcely gotten over the retirement of Lorena Ochoa, but if we thought Mexico was going to make special golf champions a one-time- deal, we were wrong. Fassi is the next star to raise golf’s profile in her home country, playing as a teen while growing up in a big soccer family. Beside the Augusta venue and awards, the reason for her emergence as a presence is Fassi herself. Browsing through her experiences and comments, her emphasis on “learning” is everywhere. Responses to setbacks, losses and outside pressures always find their way to “What can I or have I learned from this experience?”
Some of us are two-by-four to the head people. We don’t learn easily or quickly because we’re not paying enough attention. We react to experience instead of building on it. That, I believe, is part of the reason Fassi is maturing so rapidly. Some of us spend too much time on the short-term view, the little picture. A defeat causes some to say, “All right, that’s how good I am or am not, that’s who I am, get used to it…or maybe quit, either officially or on the inside.” From Fassi’s words, I hear a continual stream of what she learned from this or that course, this or that person, this or that encounter with her own game, nerves, or circumstance.
For some, what has been described as Fassi’s “fiery personality” is a drawback when put under pressure, expressed through outward frustration. For others, it’s the engine that drives the effort to compete and win. Fassi complements that healthy mentality with a big powerful swing. When the driver is on, she often enjoys a thirty or forty yard advantage. I don’t sense that her temperament is a compensation for insecurity. She knows the quality of her own game.
Now that Augusta has joined the 21st century in splendid fashion, and Annika continues to exert her positive influence on the game, that teenage gap is disappearing somewhat. The incubator is more open to view, and we like it. For Fassi and her class of up-and-coming stars, we see you.