Photo courtesy Augusta National
by Jordan Perez
Claiming the Augusta National Women’s Amateur as the second win on your amateur golf resume isn’t an expectation for many. For 2021 champion Tsubasa Kajitani, it certainly wasn’t on her radar, even after she made the cut.
In the 17-year-old’s case, it quickly became go big or go home in a sudden-death playoff against Wake Forest senior Emilia Migliaccio after the final round of the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur, where Kajitani claimed victory.
Both players eyed the leaderboard in the clubhouse ahead of the final group before it was their turn to determine the champion, where their 1-over tie summoned them to the playoff.
No. 26 WAGR ranked Kajitani held off Migliaccio on the par-4 18th hole after gracefully setting up a winning par putt. Each player hit excellent shots off of the tee right down the middle of the fairway. Migliaccio’s approach shot cozied her ball beside the right greenside bunker, while Kajitani’s precision landed her on the back right. Migliaccio’s third shot fell short of the green, landing right inside that bunker for what would amount to a bogey, while Kajitani’s missed birdie putt allowed her to set up within five feet of the hole for the winning par putt.
A tear-stricken Kajitani was overwhelmed with emotion afterward. Her back nine magic - specifically, two consecutive birdies on the 14th and 15th - had the young player looking just as poised and sharp as her fellow competitors.
Leading up to the final showdown, a six-way tie at 1-over developed on the back nine between Migliaccio (who had finished her day at 70), Kajitani, Rachel Heck, Emma Spitz, Karen Fredgaard and Ingrid Lindblad.
Kajitani’s double bogey on 17th and an eventual par on the 18th threw her into the mix, one that would whittle down as final rounds concluded. First, Heck, Spitz, and Fredgaard bogeyed the challenging 18th. Then, Lindblad fell into bogey trouble on the 14th and 16th.
Rose Zhang, who entered the day co-leading beside Lindblad, joined in a little after. A messy triple bogey on the 13th kept her out briefly before she birdied the 14th to rejoin the fun. A bogey on the 17th derailed her efforts to join the playoff as she followed it up with a par on the 18th to finish 75 for the day.
Coming into the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Kajitani hadn’t won a single amateur level event; the Okayama, Japan native only had a runner-up finish in the Avondale Amateur over in Australia in January 2020, and a win in the Japan Junior Championship in 2019. She was slated to compete as part of the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur field before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the event.
Kajitani took an eight-month pause from competition before returning in September 2020 and made four appearances on the LPGA of Japan Tour. Even still, she was patiently awaiting for her trip to Augusta, Georgia, to introduce herself to the world on her largest stage yet.
Cruising through Champions Retreat to make the 30-player cut was already a feat in itself.
And even though the young player said it took a lot of confidence to pull through, Kajitani’s back nine flight at the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur was a journey to remember.
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