The game is not a straight-line progression. Just because your scores are better now than they were a year ago does not guarantee that the trend will continue. Maria Fassi knows that better than most. Highly touted when she turned pro in 2019 after winning the individual NCAA Championship and finishing runner up in the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Fassi was a can’t-miss superstar, the kind of long-hitting athlete who should win early and often on the LPGA Tour.
A tick more than three years later, the 24-year-old from Mexico knows how fickle the game can be. So far in 2022, Fassi has missed more cuts than she has made – five in 13 starts – and her only top-10 came in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational with her friend and mentor Stacy Lewis by her side.
That could change on Sunday in Cincinnati as Fassi finds herself on the incline of golf’s rollercoaster, a shot off the lead going into the final round of the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G. She got there by hitting her wedges close and taking advantage of her length on the soft fairways at Kenwood Country Club.
“My team and the people around me know that this has been a tough year,” Fassi said after Saturday’s third round. “But the golf is there. The golf has always been there. It’s just that for me to believe that it was there, for me to see that I was actually able to hit the shots that I've been able to hit this week, that has been a huge reward, because I've worked harder than ever this last year and a half.
“You know, I haven't seen the results yet, so I'm super excited to see what tomorrow holds. Keep doing what we're doing, having a lot of fun on the golf course. I'm just excited that we get 18 more holes to do it again.”
This week’s rounds of 68, 66 and 67 have included 16 birdies and an eagle (a holed-out wedge on the par-5 15th on Saturday) against just three bogeys. It’s the first time she’s had each of her first three rounds in the 60s this season, last accomplishing it at the 2021 Pelican Women’s Championship.
“I just started off very, very strong,” Fassi said of the Saturday 67 that puts her in the final group on Sunday for the first time in her LPGA Tour career. “You know, I hit it off the tee fantastic; gave myself a lot of opportunities on the first few holes.
“I three-putted eight, but I honestly didn't think it was a bad putt, the first one, and it just got away from me a little bit. Just very steady. This last three days have been very similar in that regard. Just steady golf. I’ve given myself a lot of looks at birdie and taking advantage of as many as I can.”
She also has learned to hold tight to the handrails when the game takes a nosedive.
“It's been tough; it's been good. It's been easy; it's been hard. It's a big rollercoaster,” Fassi said of her career so far. “I think at the end of the day I always look back and realize that no matter how hard sometimes golf can be and how lonely or miserable we can be sometimes on the road; I love this game more than anything. And I want to try to play it for as long as I can and do it on the LPGA Tour.
“I think it's just such a cool place to have my dreams come true.
“So, with all the good and bad, I think I've learned that my love for the game really has no boundaries. I'm blessed to be able to do this. I'm happy that we get to do it in front of the best crowds and the best players in the world.”