Sierra Brooks (ANWA photo)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – In unfamiliar territory, and with the stakes high, caddie selection can mean everything. Sierra Brooks finds herself on the brink of that decision as a potential round at Augusta National looms.
All things considered, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis thinks she should take the local caddie. Such is the stage that the Augusta National Women’s Amateur creates.
Brooks, a 20-year-old Florida native who plays for the University of Florida, took a cold call from DeSantis in the lead-up to the ANWA. DeSantis is also a golfer, and wanted to pass along a few thoughts from a recent round at Augusta.
“The typical thing of, ‘You have Florida behind you and give me a call if you ever need anything,’” Brooks said in relaying the conversation on Wednesday after the first round at Champions Retreat. An opening 1-under 71 left her in a tie for eighth, and still in the conversation to qualify for that final round at Augusta National. Only the top 30 women on the leaderboard will play it on Saturday.
DeSantis passed on as many tips – caddie advice included – as he could in a conversation that lasted roughly 15 minutes. He advised that the greens will be tricky, and to play as much as triple the break that Brooks might expect.
Over the course of the phone call, he likely secured Brooks' vote, at the very least.
“I’m a new fan, I really like the guy now,” she said.
On the caddie decision, Brooks remains torn, and for good reason. Brooks spent one season at Wake Forest and got to play Augusta National with the team that year. Her father Brent has never had that experience, and she would like to give it to him. Should she remain inside the top 30 and qualify for that final round, she and her dad have tentatively decided to bring along a course caddie during Friday’s practice round for a sort of on-the-job interview.
“It’s one of those things that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, being the first (ANWA),” Brooks said. “You’re all playing on Augusta National. My dad has never been out on the course, he has only watched the tournament. I really wanted him to be there for that.”
The past few months have been a lesson in the weight that Augusta National carries. Brooks accepted her invitation in January, and made an appearance on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive shortly after. She appeared in an ANWA promotional video released on International Women's Day. In the process of filming that, she watched tournament organized transform an unspectacular driving range in her native Orlando into a brilliantly lit backdrop for a chill-inducing message about women’s golf.
Most recently, Brooks joined fellow competitor Maria Fassi and Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez on a New York City media tour to promote the event. It all brought more perspective than jitters.
“It brought the perspective of the actual event and how much it means to women’s golf,” she said. “I don’t think I would have understood that until I found those opportunities, and it’s just been incredible.”
For now, Thursday's task cannot be understated. Brooks has to remain inside the top 30 to get to Augusta National. It presents an odd dance for the second round: watch the top of the leaderboard, or watch the cutline. Brooks sees no reason to change strategy on this.
“For me, I want to go in with one thing in mind, and that’s to do my best with the goal of winning,” she said. “Focusing on the cut I think is just. . . it’s like looking back.”
Brooks has moved light years forward since the creation of this event. There’s no reason to turn around now.
ABOUT THE Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA)
54-hole stroke-play tournament that will include a
72 player international field. The field will include
winners of other recognized tournaments while also
utilizing the Women's World Amateur Golf Rankings.
The first two rounds will be played at
Retreat Golf Club before the field is cut to the low 30
and ties for the final round at Augusta National.
The tournament will be played the week before
Masters, concluding on Saturday.
View Complete Tournament Information