Anna Redding (ANWA photo)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – When Anna Redding looked around her late Thursday afternoon at Champions Retreat, the number of people flanking the closing holes was a little bit staggering.
“There were a lot more people out here than I originally thought,” said Redding, a Virginia senior who eeked her way in to Saturday’s final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur with a well-timed par in an 11-for-10 playoff.
Thursday’s closing shots were an indicator of what’s ahead on Saturday. Only the top 30 players among the 72 women who started the week will actually compete on Augusta National. The hype was huge for the first tee shot. Playoff fireworks reignited that.
The people who turned out to watch – especially those without a rooting interest – cheered that scenario. The playoff was an opportunity for competitors to execute shots, play aggressively and play under pressure. When Ainhoa Olarra made a 25-foot birdie putt to earn the last of 30 spots on Saturday’s tee sheet, she won over a whole crowd
. When she expressed her belief that her late friend Celia Barquin Arozamena was with her there, it gave them goosebumps.
For Redding, the playoff pressure cooker was Thursday’s most tense moment, but the most challenging question came later: Why should viewers tune in Saturday to watch the women take on Augusta, anyway?
“Us playing Augusta is going to be like nothing they’ve ever seen,” Redding said, partly referencing course setup and partly referencing the games on display. “…You’d be watching history.”
Redding likes that after she competes on the biggest stage that day, Virginia’s men’s basketball team will do the same. They meet Auburn in the Final Four Saturday evening.
“I’m just going to rally around this Hoo vibe,” she said. Coach Ria Scott helped cultivate that a bit. She made a one-day stop at Champions Retreat and watched nearly all of Redding’s second round before she had to get back with the team. Her parting message was one of self-belief.
Redding has been acutely aware of the cutline for the past two days. Many players found themselves in a similar position. It was hard not to tighten up, try to steer it and lose control.
It took a hard leaderboard look after 16 holes for Duke signee Erica Shepherd to do that. The lefty parred No. 17, then pulled a fairway wood on her second shot at the reachable par-5 18th. She had 221 yards to the pin but she knew she could never live with herself if she had laid up and fallen outside the cut. That birdie left her at 2 under, and one shot ahead of the playoff.
“I saw the scoreboard off 10 green,” she said. “I made sure I saw that before I hit."
Confidence has come in many forms this week. Alice Hewson relished a wind that picked up on Thursday. The long-hitting Clemson senior climbed from T-40 at the start of the day to T-11 by the end of it simply because she was able to manage gusty conditions and post 69. Hewson grew up playing in England.
“I was able to go out there and play pretty freely,” she said.
Friday will be a similar story of finding confidence and looking for an advantage as most players get to play the course for the first time. Florida State junior Amanda Doherty, who birdied her final hole on Thursday to reach the playoff, got one very important directive regarding Augusta. Assistant coach Robert Duck, who formerly played for Augusta State and has managed a few rounds at Augusta National, zeroed in on Amen Corner.
“If you don’t do anything else, hit the middle of 12,” Doherty repeated dutifully. “Don’t care where the pin is, just hit the middle.”
Only 26 of the 72 players who started the week had an Augusta National caddie. Ten of those players made the cut. On Saturday, every player will be joined during the practice round by an Augusta caddie. It remains to be seen how many players trade in comfort for experience after the practice round.
For Redding, the two have already combined. Redding played 27 holes at Augusta National as a high-senior five years ago. She knew this week that she wanted a local caddie, but didn’t put in a specific request. Still, she drew the same caddie she had as a high-schooler, Jacob Headrick.
“I like his vibe and his chemistry,” she said.
That’s half the job description.
ABOUT THE Augusta National Women’s Amateur
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
scores for the final round at Augusta National.
The tournament will be played the week before
Masters, concluding on Saturday.
View Complete Tournament Information