Maria Fassi opens up on fighting the shanks, men’s mini-tour start

David Leadbetter has only one request of Maria Fassi this week: Don’t try to outhit the men. He’s serious, too. On Wednesday, Fassi wil...


David Leadbetter has only one request of Maria Fassi this week: Don’t try to outhit the men.

He’s serious, too.

On Wednesday, Fassi will compete in a two-day men’s mini tour event at ChampionsGate near Orlando, Florida, where she now lives and practices. The Moonlight Tour event will be held on the International Course, and Fassi has been teeing it up from 7,300 yards to prepare.

“She’s probably one of the most powerful players ever to play on the LPGA tour, speed-wise,” said Leadbetter. The 2019 NCAA Champion reminds him of a young Michelle Wie in that respect.

“She’s constantly over the 300 mark.”

Fassi’s clubhead speed average of 108 to 109 mph with driver puts her on the lower end of PGA Tour players and right in line with men that have made plenty of money, names like Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.

“Some courses (on the LPGA) actually really don’t suit her,” said Leadbetter, “because she almost runs out of room. We’re really working hard on her wedge play and her short game.”

Fassi said she’ll feel more pressure to capitalize on good looks at birdie on the Moonlight Tour, given that she’ll likely have fewer of them with longer clubs in her hand. She looks forward to the challenge.

“In my head, I still think I can go and win the tournament,” she said.

While the LPGA has been on extended break due to the coronavirus, Leadbetter and Fassi have attacked one particular aspect of her game that has caused a great deal of destruction: the shank.

“We call it ‘the funny shot,’ ” Leadbetter said.

The shank can strike at any time, whether she’s 5 under or 5 over. If she hits one, usually there’s a few more coming. Earlier this year the TV cameras were rolling when she shanked alongside eventual winner Madelene Sagstrom at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio. The shank has cost her junior titles, college titles and a whole lot of money on the LPGA thus far in her short career.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve had the shanks,” she said.

The same trait that makes her potential so vast is the same trait that causes such cringe-worthy shots – her speed.

“My lower body is super fast,” she said. “Sometimes the club falls far behind and there’s no way my hands can catch up. The hosel gets there before the face.”

Fassi tries to laugh them off. Getting angry on the course, she said, isn’t going to make them go away. She hasn’t shanked in practice in over a month, but then again she hasn’t been under the pressure of competition either, when she starts to swing even faster. Leadbetter joked that he has given her the “shank vaccine.”

“I don’t know if it’s true,” said Fassi, “but (Leadbetter) says that the shank is the closest thing to a perfect shot. I try to believe that’s the truth, and that keeps me going and lets me sleep at night.”

The Moonlight event gives Fassi a chance to put into practice what she has worked on since the LPGA went on hiatus in mid-February. There were no girls growing up at her home course in Mexico, so she got used to playing with the guys. She did the same in college, using the opportunity to learn as much as she could. This will be her first official tournament against men.

Fassi’s aggressive playing style and interview candor makes her one of the most compelling young players in the women’s game. Last year, after a riveting runner-up finish against Jennifer Kupcho at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, some began to tout her as a potential superstar.

Would she be interested in one day becoming the seventh woman to ever compete in a PGA Tour event?

“I would love that,” she said.

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Newsrust: Maria Fassi opens up on fighting the shanks, men’s mini-tour start
Maria Fassi opens up on fighting the shanks, men’s mini-tour start
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