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ANWA: Top 10 storylines worth following
29 Mar 2022
by Jim Young of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, Augusta National Golf Club

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Lauren Walsh, Rachel Kuehn and Carolina Chacarra (Charles Laberge photo)
Lauren Walsh, Rachel Kuehn and Carolina Chacarra (Charles Laberge photo)

With the third playing of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur getting underway today at Champions Retreat Golf Club and culminating with the final round Saturday at famed Augusta National Golf Club, here are a few storylines worth keeping an eye on as the tournament plays out.

The Stanford contingent
With five players from their current roster, including two of the top three female amateurs in the world in Rachel Heck and Rose Zhang, the top-ranked Cardinal will mostly likely figure prominently in this year’s event. Joining Heck and Zhang will be Angelina Ye, Caroline Sturdza and Aline Krauter, along with Megha Ganne, who will join the Cardinal next fall. Brooke Seay also received an ANWA invitation but elected to play in the LPGA’s Chevron Championship at Rancho Mirage, Calif.

What about Wake?
While Stanford has the highest number of players in the field with five, Wake Forest will be represented by last year’s runner-up, Emilia Migliaccio, Carolina Lopez-Chacarra, Rachel Kuehn and Lauren Walsh. All four are in the top 30 in WAGR and three of them have competed in previous Augusta National Women’s Amateurs. With Jennifer Kupcho’s win in 2019, only a playoff loss stands in the way of the Demon Deacons going 2-for-2 at the ANWA.

Unfinished business for Rose Zhang
Rose Zhang hasn’t let too many tournaments slip from her hands but last year’s ANWA was certainly one of them. The former U.S. Women’s Amateur champion seemed to be in control of things until she made a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 13th hole which led to a final round 75 which left her one stroke out of the playoff with Emilia Migliaccio and eventual champion Tsubasa Kajitani. This will be Zhang’s third ANWA appearance and she is one of four returning players who have made the cut in both previous editions and with three wins already as a collegian, the Stanford freshman seems poised to check another big box on her already impressive amateur resume.

Lindblad’s riding a hot hand
While there will be a lot of talk around Stanford’s Zhang and Heck, LSU’s Ingrid Lindblad comes into Augusta as the hottest player in the field. The Swede has won each of her last two starts for the Tigers, most recently at last week’s Clemson Invitational, and has four wins to her credit this season and eight for her career. She was one of six players who finished one-stroke out of the playoff last year, tying for third.

Rising stars
While top collegians dominate the ANWA field, a handful of outstanding junior players will look to push their way to the top of the leaderboard come Sunday. After playing in the final group at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, nerves won’t be an issue for Megha Ganne, who has risen to 16th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. The AJGA’s Female Player of the Year who is headed to Stanford next fall failed to make the cut in her first ANWA appearance last year, but as a four-time Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist, she’s no stranger to the surroundings of Augusta National Golf Club.


Alex Pano (ANWA Photo)
Avery Zweig of McKinney, Texas has been playing golf since she was two and competed in her first tournament at the age of five. The 15-year-old has won more than 200 junior tournaments in 10 years, including four AJGA events. She’s making her first ANWA debut but like Ganne, is no stranger to Augusta National, having reached the finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt contest on three occasions. Nicknamed “Nugget,” she’s also very comfortable on the big stage, having played in six USGA championships along with the LPGA’s Volunteers of America Classic at The Colony last summer.

Alex Pano, a two-time DCP National Champion who is currently ranked third in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, will be making her third trip to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The 17-year-old from Lake Worth Beach, Fla. finished in a tie for 10th at last year’s LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament Stage II but couldn’t advance to the final Q-Series because she didn’t meet the Tour’s minimum age requirement. She is now a full-fledged member of the Epson Tour while maintaining her amateur status and recently tied for 10th at the Florida Natural Charity Classic in Winter Haven.

Lefty Anna Davis and Yana Wilson, ranked first and second respectively in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, are also in the field, along with Bailey Shoemaker, who is ranked fourth.

Don’t forget Champions Retreat
You can’t win the ANWA in the first two rounds but getting to Augusta National for Saturday’s final round is no guarantee either. The first two rounds of the ANWA will be played at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans, Ga., which is approximately 15 miles from the gates of Augusta National. A cut will take place after 36 holes, with the leading 30 players advancing to the final round at Augusta National on Saturday. In 2019, the cut came at 3-over and in 2021, it was 6-over.

Is another thrilling finish in store?
The first two ANWA’s has produced thrilling finishes the patrons of The Masters long for each year. In 2019, Jennifer Kupcho pulled away from Maria Fassi by playing the last six holes in 5-under par, which included an eagle on the par-5 13th after hitting her second shot to six feet. Last year, Tsubasa Kajitani of Japan defeated Emilia Migliaccio on the first sudden-death playoff hole while six players, including Rachel Heck, Rose Zhang and Ingrid Lindblad, finished one stroke off the lead. While Kajitani will not be defending her title, what would be better than the top three female amateurs in the world dueling down the back nine at Augusta on Saturday afternoon?

Who?

Youmin Hwang (ANWA Photo)
Tsubasa Kajitani wasn’t exactly a household name coming into last year’s ANWA, but there she was hoisting the trophy on Saturday. Anyone of a number of players can find themselves in the same position this weekend but three to keep an eye on are Youmin Hwang, winner of the 2021 Korean Women’s Amateur and currently ranked third in WAGR; Xiaowen Yin who won the Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Challenge last July at the age of 15 to become the youngest winner in China LPGA Tour history; and Amalie Leth-Nissen, who won three World Amateur Golf Ranking events in 2021, finished runner-up in both the German Women's Amateur and an LET Access Series professional event in France, and represented Europe in the Junior Solheim Cup for a second time.

From all corners of the globe

Avani Prashanth
Of the 39 international players in this year's field, perhaps none is more fascinating than 15-year-old Avani Prashanth, who is the first player from India to compete in the ANWA. The native of Bengaluru, India, who started playing golf before the age of four, finished in the top 10 in all 15 of her appearances in World Amateur Golf Ranking events in India last year and had four victories – two of them coming in professional events. She closed out her year by winning both the IGU All India Ladies and Junior Championships.

Navigating through Amen Corner
How the leaders handle the 11th, 12th and 13th holes at Augusta National, thought of as the most difficult stretch on the course, will go a long way in determining the winner. In 2019, Jennifer Kupcho used an eagle on the risk-reward par-5 13th en route to a final round 67 to make history as the first ANWA champion. It was on the same hole that Rose Zhang had two penalty strokes that led to a triple-bogey 8. She would ultimately finish one stroke out of the playoff.

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AmateurGolf.com's staff predictions

Chris Brauner, Website Operations Manager
Ingrid Lindblad. She knows how to win, which she has done a lot lately, plays at a school in the southeast, was in contention on the back nine last year. I think she will be motivated and more comfortable being in contention in that highly-charged atmosphere.

Jim Young, Managing Editor
It's hard to go against Rose Zhang, but I think this is Ingrid Lindblad's year. She has four wins already this year and in my opinion, is the frontrunner for the ANNIKA Award. One of her wins this season came at the Jackson T. Stephens Cup at the Alotian Golf Club, which has many of the same characteristics of Augusta National. I wouldn't be surprised to see Youmin Hwang or Louise Duncan of Scotland breakthrough.

Sean Melia, Staff Writer
I'm going with Rachel Heck. It's tough to pick against a player that has won eight college events in the last 13 months. She finished one shot out of the playoff last year. I love that she’s competing for the second time, as both courses require some familiarity to play well. Amalie Leth-Nissen is coming off a win at Sage Valley. She's in good form and is use to playing in big events in Europe, including a runner-up finish in the LET Access series. Youth will serve her well as a dark horse.

Kent Paisley, Staff Writer
Sometimes in sports predictions, we aim to think out of the box. Or try to trip over ourselves thinking it should be someone no one else has thought of. Don’t get it twisted: Rose Zhang is the pick. Winning has to matter when predicting a winner, and the Stanford freshman is doing it in bunches. Over her last seven starts, she hasn’t finished worse than fourth place and won four in a row. Phew. She finished in third place last year, but as they say, yesterday's price isn’t today's price. Zhang is a different and even more feared player than 2021, and with her current form, it’s her time to emerge in the winner’s circle.

MORE ANWA COVERAGE



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 Champions 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 the Masters, concluding on Saturday.

View Complete Tournament Information

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