Circling The Dates That Matter

This Drive On story was going to be about my long road back to competitive golf. Nine years after walking away from the LPGA Tour, I placed in the top eight at the 2021 LPGA Professionals National Championship, which earned me a spot as an LPGA Professional in the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, an amazing opportunity I never thought I’d have again. Since qualifying, I’ve had almost a year to think about what it will be like to step back inside the ropes for my first major championship in nine years.

Preparing for the KPMG Women’s PGA while teaching full-time became one of my most important life goals - right up until the moment it wasn’t.

But first, some backstory:

I played at the University of North Carolina, where I was an All-American and ACC Champion. After earning my degree, I transitioned into professional golf on what’s now the Epson Tour and earned my LPGA Tour card for the 2007 season. I made the most of my rookie year on the LPGA, winning the MasterCard Classic in a four-hole playoff against Annika Sorenstam. You can’t imagine the thrill of beating one of the game’s all-time greats. Three years later, I won the HSBC Brasil Cup, this time in a playoff against Mariajo Uribe.

After a handful of great years on tour, something started to change. Golf began to define me. After the HSBC victory, I didn’t crack the top-20 in my last three years, and I lost my card in 2013. As strange as it sounds, I was okay walking away from playing. But I wasn’t done with the LPGA, so I decided to caddie. I still loved being inside the ropes; I just didn’t want to hit the shots anymore. In 2014, I caddied for Min Lee on the Epson Tour. Then in 2015 and 2016, I looped for Marina Alex and Na Yeon Choi. I caddied for Michelle Wie at the 2016 Evian Championship. And the last time I carried a bag was for my close friend, Karrie Webb, at The Chevron Championship at Mission Hills in 2018.

After a few years with a heavy bag on my back, I knew I couldn’t caddie for the rest of my life. I needed to get out of golf and back to my roots in Port Chester, New York. I feel lucky to have grown up in a community of hard-working, caring people. From my years with the Racoon Lodge kids to junior basketball and throughout my golf career, the people of Port Chester have shown their love and support for me – and for each other.

I was fortunate to land a job in the digital media group at Major League Baseball. I learned a lot at MLB, but I also learned I really missed golf. Stepping away from the game made me realize how important it was to me.

The opportunity to return to golf came from the LPGA Amateur Golf Association. I joined them in 2017 as Director of Golf and ran tournaments for their members. So, coming full circle, I worked at LPGA headquarters, running 26 tournaments for the LPGA’s 13,000 amateur members.

That’s where I met the team from Dormie Network – an LPGA partner. They were looking to hire a director for their Dormie Network Institute. We hit it off and I began teaching golf at one of their six clubs, Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. My Mom, a retired schoolteacher, always said I should teach. My longtime coach and golf mentor, Tom Patri, also told me I should teach golf. But I kept saying, “People can play, and people can teach.” Tom told me, “You can do both. You have an eye for it.”

I hate to admit it, but they were right. Dormie Network gave me the opportunity to find my passion and discover what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The ironic thing is that while I’ve been teaching, my own game has never been better. My swing has improved because I’m showing students the right things to do. And, I’m playing golf pressure-free and having fun.

I started to get that competitive fire back, so I entered the LPGA Professionals National Championship, held last June at Kingsmill Resort in Virginia. The top eight finishers would qualify for the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and I wanted to give it a try. It was my first competitive tournament in seven years. I haven’t been that nervous since I played my last US Women’s Open! I was happy with how I played that week, but I wasn’t making many putts the first two rounds. I did something I’ve never done before; I changed putters in the final round. I drained a 20-footer for birdie on the 17th hole and then made par on the final hole to earn one of the exemptions.

In February, I took a new job as an LPGA Professional at Philadelphia Cricket Club. The team and members are great. While building my business and new relationships at Cricket Club, I’ve also maintained my friends at Dormie Network. And, while it feels great to qualify for the KPMG Women’s PGA, my expectations have changed. It’s more about representing my club, my students, my family and myself to the best of my abilities. That takes hard work and preparation.

So, I circled the KPMG Women’s PGA dates on my calendar and began preparing. The event was the most important thing on my schedule.

Until suddenly, it wasn’t important at all.


On October 14, 2021, my mother, Denise, called to say the three words that would change her life and mine forever: “I have cancer.”

I was calm during that initial call while breaking down inside. I remember her telling me it was going to be okay and that we would fight through this. She was more worried about me, which is just like her. I told my Mom I had to teach a lesson and I’d call her later. Then I took my golf cart to a private area and fell to my knees. I was distraught, mad, scared, dazed and sick to my stomach.

I pulled myself together. I had a lesson to film for my LPGA teaching certification. As it happened, my student was going through his own battle with cancer. He was the first of countless people who provided support, advice, comfort and occasional humor.

I’m an only child but my Tour family has been part of “Team Denise” from the start. My LPGA “sisters” checked on me often and they texted my mom to check on her, too. We cannot express how much love and support we had and what it meant to us during one of the worst times in our lives.

In the months since that phone call, our lives have changed dramatically. My Mom is a planner, so she took comfort in developing her treatment plan and checking off the milestones.

I spent the winter in Florida, sleeping on a cot in the living room of my parent’s condo. I became Mom’s oncology nurse, doctor and caretaker. It was a battle at times. My Mom is the nicest woman in the world, but she was a horrible patient. She has a strong faith and leaned on that to get through.

Cancer treatment is always hard. COVID restrictions made it harder. While Mom went through hell and back for five months with chemo and surgery, her doctors at Jupiter Medical Center were phenomenal.

While I forgot all other dates on my calendar, the most important one came on February 18. That was the day Mom got the report that she is cancer free.

June 23-26 - the KPMG Women’s PGA - is still circled. In many ways, my return to competition motivated Mom to get through treatment. I’m thrilled to say we are on the road to recovery. And that road is taking us to Congressional Country Club later this month.


Nothing clarifies what’s important in life more than illness or loss. When someone you love is fighting for their life, golf became unimportant. Until it became important again.

What I’ve learned over these past months is how much this KPMG Women’s PGA means to the people around me. For my mother and family, it’s become a goal during the dark days of cancer. Mom lights up when she talks about our time together at tournaments and what it means to her to see me compete again.

For my coach and community of friend and students, it’s a lesson in perseverance, reimaging your future and the satisfaction that comes from finding your passion and purpose.

My Drive On story isn’t my story at all. It’s shared by everyone whose been part of this journey. I don’t know how I will feel when I step inside the ropes again. But I do know that I’m playing for something much bigger than myself.

I’m Meaghan Francella and WE Drive On.

Editor’s Notes:

One in eight women will get breast cancer over their lives. Meaghan and Denise Francella shared their experience navigating the treatment process in with the LPGA’s Women’s Network (Link)

Meaghan’s Drive On story is taking another turn this week as she plays in the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, June 10 – 12.

And you can watch Meaghan and the other LPGA / PGA Professionals compete with LPGA Tour members at the KPMG Women’s PGA June 23-26.