Port Chester native Meaghan Francella will tee it up in the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer on June 9-11. The tour start marks a return of sorts for the 41-year-old whose full-time day job now is teaching the game at Philadelphia’s Cricket Club, but who roared onto the scene during her rookie year on tour in 2007 with a dramatic sudden-death playoff win over Annika Sorenstam.
Following her triumph, Francella competed for several years but left the tour in 2013 to try several other roles in the golf industry. She finally settled into the teaching position at Philly Cricket. Last year, she qualified for the KPMG and received a sponsor’s exemption to the ShopRite following an emotionally-draining period in her life caring for her cancer-stricken mother, Denise. In one of the most inspirational stories in golf, her mom’s recovery was completed in time for her to attend in person to watch Francella play in Atlantic City.
Last year’s ShopRite was won by Brooke Henderson, who joins Francella, former World No. 1 players Jin Young Ko, Cristie Kerr, and Ariya Jutanugarn, along with fan favorites Georgia Hall, Stacy Lewis, and Brittany Lincicome in the 144-player field. “Realistically I know I can still compete,” Francella says. “I proved it last year. I came out, shot 68 the first round, and then my expectation level went through the roof.” She missed the cut with a second round 74 last year, but treasures the time with her mom and the tremendous support from family and friends who came to see her play.
“My cousins came down from New York last year and loved it. The Seaview is as close to home as I can get. It’s two and a half hours from my hometown of Port Chester and an hour from where I work.” Francella may now live in the Philadelphia area, but she stays in touch with family and friends in Westchester. “I miss the place where I grew up,” she says. “T&J’s Pizza, Longford’s ice cream, all of that.” And then there are the people who shaped her career. “I’ve had two guys that I have worked for in my life that have been just truly incredible people, and one was John Kennedy at Westchester Country Club.” She worked there while honing her game with Tom Patri.
Francella graduated from the School of the Holy Child in Rye and played golf at the University of North Carolina, where she was the 2003 ACC individual champion. A two-time NY State Junior Champion, she made the NCAA First-Team All-American in 2004 and graduated from UNC with a degree in communications in 2005. Francella competed in three LPGA Tour events in 2006 as a non-exempt member and finished fifth on the Duramed Futures Tour money list following a win at the Lakeland Classic to earn exempt status for the 2007 LPGA season.
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Known as Atlantic City’s largest sporting event, the ShopRite LPGA Classic is one of the LPGA Tour’s longest running tournaments. It’s held on The Bay Course at Seaview, a Donald Ross design that opened in 1914. The 6,300-yard layout is less a test of length and more a course favoring imagination, accuracy, and short game prowess.
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