Georgia Looks to Build on Impressive State Team History September 10, 2015 | Cape Girardeau, Mo. By Scott Lipsky, USGA

Playing her first full season of competiton since regaining her amateur status, Emilie Meason will be a key cog to Georgia's success. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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The Georgia team boasts some of the more formidable resumes in this week’s USGA Women’s State Team Championship at Dalhousie Golf Club. Next month, Margaret Shirley will defend her U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur title, at Squire Creek Country Club, in Choudrant, La. Emilie Meason (neé Burger) was a four-time All-America honoree during her standout career at the University of Georgia. Lauren Lightfritz, 17, is slated to play golf at Mercer University next year, and the reigning Georgia Girls' champion helped Lambert High School to back-to-back-to-back state championships.

This Georgia squad is accustomed to success on the golf course. And it’s a good thing, because it has a lot to live up to this week. In 10 playings of the Women’s State Team, Georgia has won the title three times, more than any other state. In fact, they are the only state to claim the championship more than once, most recently in 2011.

“[Non-playing captain Belinda Marsh] reminded us of that. Bottom line, you have to play your own game, you can’t go out and think, ‘Oh, I’ve got to shoot the best round I’ve ever shot,’” said Shirley, the only one of the three who has competed in the championship before, in 2003. “It’s really nice to know you’ve got two great players behind you if you’re not having a great day.”

While Georgia may be short on Women’s State Team experience, the players are not short on familiarity with one another. Shirley spent Meason’s freshman year on the Bulldogs’ staff as an assistant coach. Now the executive director of Atlanta Junior Golf, Shirley is familiar with Lightfritz from her days as a college coach, when she would scout at junior events.

It’s another common thread between Shirley and Meason that could make them particularly dangerous this week. The two are playing for the pure enjoyment of the game, something they couldn’t necessarily say when they each made a go of it in the professional ranks. Both gave it a shot for less than a year after completing their collegiate careers, and they are now happily competing as reinstated amateurs.

Margaret Shirley, the 2014 U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur champion, is competing in the Women's State Team for the first time since 2003. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

“It got to the point for me, where I did it for so long, since junior golf, that it almost turned into a job when I was out there. I just forgot how to enjoy the game. I took a year off, and now I enjoy going out and playing,” said Meason, who competed at Dalhousie in the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions in 2009. “You just have to remember why you started playing in the first place.”

“I think we have fun, and that’s something that needs to come back into the game in some regard,” Shirley added. “That’s what I want some of these juniors to realize, to just make it fun. And if you make it fun, you’re going to play well.”

Lightfritz will get to pick their brains throughout the championship, in addition to helping them add to the Peach State’s unmatched legacy in the Women’s State Team. Being a part of the squad is something from which she is already reaping the benefits.

“Just so much advice. I have dreams of playing professionally one day, too, and just learning from them is nice,” Lightfritz said. “They look mature out there.”

Two players who have been there, and a third on the rise absorbing everything she can. Women’s State Team title No. 4 is very much in play.

Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at

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