While the U.S. Women’s Amateur remains the most coveted amateur golf championship in the world, just receiving an invitation to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur is enough to send chills down the spines of the best players around the globe.
The drive down Magnolia Lane to the iconic white clubhouse, navigating through Amen Corner, the anticipation of the tee shot over Rae’s Creek on the par-3 12th hole, or the second shot into the famously reachable par-5 13th and 15th holes, traversing over the Hogan Bridge, dreaming of taking the victor’s walk up the 18th fairway or just warming up on its pristine practice area have been on the minds of the top female amateur players in the world since they received their invitations to the ANWA shortly after the first of the year.
“Receiving an invitation to the tournament is a culmination of a year of hard work and I am looking forward to competing and enjoying the experience,” said Phoebe Brinker
of Duke. “There is so much history at Augusta, so being a part of that and experiencing it firsthand is so special.”
Virginia’s Beth Lillie
echoed Brinker’s sentiments.
“I’m definitely looking most forward to just getting on Augusta grounds and being surrounded by so much golf history,” said Lillie, a native of Fullerton, Calif. who will be playing in her first ANWA. “It’s a true privilege to be invited to this tournament and to get the opportunity to play in an event that is helping promote women’s amateur golf in such a cool way. I’m so excited to be a part of that atmosphere, have fun, and compete against the very best amateur field in the world.”
of LSU isn’t alone when she says, “Just thinking about stepping foot on Augusta National and actually playing gives me goosebumps.”
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Though the venue speaks for itself, thrilling final round finishes in the first two events played out before a national television audience has only added to the tournament’s building momentum.
Jennifer Kupcho (l) and Maria Fassi
In the inaugural event in 2019, Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho
, then the No. 1 female amateur in the world, overcame a migraine to birdie five of her last six holes en route to 67 to defeat Maria Fassi
, a fiery, dynamic player from Arkansas. While the two players combined for nine birdies and an eagle, it was Kupcho’s amazing second shot with a fairway wood into the risk-reward par-5 13th hole that will surely stand the test of time as one of the most memorable moments in tournament history.
Two days after their epic head-to-head battle, Kupcho and Fassi headed to New York for appearances on The Today Show and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. With an unforgettable duel that would be the envy of any back nine on a Masters Sunday, along with a majestic, 200-yard shot over Rae’s Creek, the ANWA had arrived.
After the pandemic postponed the 2020 tournament, more history was made at ANWA last year when Tsubasa Kajitani
seemingly came out of nowhere to defeat Emilia Migliaccio
in a playoff to become the first Japanese player to win at Augusta National. A week later, Hideki Matsuyama became the second by winning the Masters.
While the ANWA can’t match the history of the U.S. Women’s Amateur, which has been played 121 times since 1895, the mystique and reverence surrounding the hallowed grounds of the Augusta National Golf Club has lent an unmistakable aura to the event that’s unequaled.
However, the ANWA has something much stronger going for it.
In addition to providing a global stage for the best female amateurs in the world to showcase their talents, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur has become a strong source of motivation for young female golfers who now can dream of someday walking on the same hallowed grounds as Palmer, Nicklaus, Woods and yes, Kupcho, Fassi, Kajitani and others.
“I always watched the Masters and dreamed of playing Augusta, but not necessarily in a tournament because I’m a girl and that wasn’t a thing,” said Rachel Heck
of Stanford on a recent AmateurGolf.com podcast
. “When the tournament was first announced, we were all shocked because we were going to be able to show the world our games at Augusta. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
Two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kay Cockerill, who will be covering the tournament as an on-course reporter for NBC Sports, recognizes the importance of the ANWA to the women’s game and its power to inspire a new generation of female golfers.
“It (ANWA) has become the premier women’s amateur tournament by virtue of the select group of players who are invited to compete on one of the biggest stages in golf,” said Cockerill. “Playing in the ANWA has become a main goal for both junior and amateur golfers. For many, this will be the biggest stage they’ve played on and regardless of how they play, it will be a memory they will savor forever with their family, friends and coaches.”
“Playing and walking the grounds of Augusta National is an experience of a lifetime,” said USC freshman Amari Avery
, who shares a birthday with five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods.
Though all of the participants will have the opportunity to play Augusta National during a practice round on Friday, Heck, who finished third in last year’s event, says there’s no comparison in competing for one of the biggest prizes in amateur golf on one of the most iconic layouts in the world.
“Everyone gets to play Augusta but we all want a chance to compete on the last day when it really matters,” Heck said. “There’s a lot of looking around and smelling the azaleas in the practice round and then you realize you have to play a tournament and compete. To come down the stretch in the final round last year, chasing the leaders through Amen Corner, was one of the greatest days of my life.
“I think about making a birdie on 12 last year and going for it on 15. I’ve never been so excited to hit a shot in my life than the second shot into 15. I hit one of the best five woods of my life and then thought about all of the players who had walked down the same fairway. It was unreal.”
So, what’s in store for the third edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur that will play out this week amid the Georgia pines, magnolias, dogwoods and azaleas?
Pure, enduring memories and chills for the players who are there along with inspiration and hope for a lot of daydreamy little girls who someday will be.