Augusta National Women's Amateur: Top storylines worth following
21 Mar 2023
by Jordan Perez of AmateurGolf.com

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

Photo by Chris Trotman/Augusta National
Photo by Chris Trotman/Augusta National

The fourth chapter in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur history book is waiting to be penned and the championship is already bursting with plenty of rich storylines.

Each of the first three tournaments has produced unique stories of its own, but this year’s 75-player field has plenty of tales to tell. From the hunt to the unofficial amateur grand slam, a habitually successful defending champion to a Curtis Cup reunion, the storylines for 2023’s championship seem endless.

If past ANWAs are any indication, the last chapter of the 2023 edition which will be written a week from Saturday will surely be memorable. Here are a few storylines worth keeping an eye on as the tournament plays out.

• • • • •

Rose Zhang’s Missing Hardware

Having already won the U.S. Junior Girls , the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the NCAA individual championship there’s really only one empty space in Rose Zhang’s crowded trophy case.

She’s had a few close calls in each of her previous three ANWA starts, advancing to the final round each time with no finish worse than a tie for 17th. In 2021, she was in the driver’s seat for most of the final round before a triple bogey on the 13th left her a stroke out of the playoff with Emilia Migliaccio and eventual champion Tsubasa Kajitani.

The Stanford sophomore has won five times in her six events this season and has nine career wins in less than two full seasons on the Farm. She's closing in on Leonna Maguire's record of 135 consecutive weeks ranked as the world's top female amateur and would love nothing more to add the only title that has eluded her.

Anna Davis First to Defend the Title

For the first time in ANWA history, the defending champion returns to defend her crown. Though 17-year-old Anna Davis isn’t the only ANWA champion in the field, as 2021 champion Tsubasa Kajitani returns after missing last year's event.

Davis comes to Augusta with a wave of momentum after winning the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, just 20 minutes down the road from the gates of the National. “Augusta and Champions Retreat are very similar to this course. I think just being able to play this kind of golf, being comfortable and being familiar with the area is always very helpful. So I think that just adds on to my win last year,” Davis said of the victory.

“Knowing that I can play well on the course obviously gives me a little bit of confidence,” Davis says. But a different test awaits her: “Going into last year I didn’t really know any of the history, I didn’t know much about it, and I think that gave me an advantage on the field, just not really feeling the pressure of being at Augusta National. I think it’s a little different this year because now the spotlight is going to be on me playing on that golf course.”

Japan Leads Large International Contingent
There will be 20 countries represented in this year's field. Headlined by the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Saki Baba and 2021 ANWA champion Tsubasa Kajitani, the Land of the Rising Sun sets an ANWA record for the largest international contingent with 10 participants.

First-timers like Yuna Araki (Japan Girls Junior champion; Australian Master of the Amateurs champion), Sayaka Teraoka (Japan Women’s Amateur champion), Mamika Shinchi and Nika Ito step onto the scene following accomplished years. Miku Ueta and Mizuki Hashimoto, with Baba, were selected to represent Japan at the World Amateur Team Championship in 2022 for a third overall finish. Hinano Muguruma and Rin Yoshida return to ANWA a second time to celebrate their continued success.

Five English players will compete, including reigning Women’s Amateur champion Jess Baker, Caley McGinty along with a trio of Florida State golfers Lottie Woad, Amelia Williamson and Charlotte Heath while Spain has four participants -- Spanish Women's Amateur champion Cayetana Fernandez Garcia-Poggio, Mississippi State’s Julia Lopez Ramirez, Wake Forest sophomore Carolina Lopez-Chacarra and LSU’s Carla Tejedo.

Geaux Tigers

Future commits, current players or alumnae from 31 U.S. colleges and universities will be represented in the field with LSU leading the way with four representatives. Ingrid Lindblad, the world's No. 2 ranked female amateur, will be joined by teammates Latanna Stone, last year's runner-up, Carla Tejedo and former Tiger Kendall Griffin, who currently serves as an assistant coach at Indiana.

“Better late than never, see you soon Augusta,” Tejedo wrote of her invitation in early March.

Lindblad, Stone and Tejedo have led the fifth-ranked Tigers to four wins this season and have combined for 12 individual titles in their careers.

Stanford, Wake Forest, Duke, Florida State and Ole Miss will have three representatives each.

Curtis Cup Reunion

The Curtis Cup to ANWA pipeline is particularly strong. The 2022 winning Curtis Cup roster all received invitations – but will not see Rachel Heck take action due to injury. This year’s crew at ANWA sees Zhang, Kuehn, Stone, Megha Ganne, Amari Avery, Emilia Migliaccio, and Jensen Castle. The star-spangled assembly combined for 14 individual wins in the past calendar year.

Beware of the Underdogs
Defending champion Anna Davis said it best on her way to her fateful ANWA victory: “I don’t know a lot of the girls here, so I am kind of feeling like an underdog.” With a WAGR ranking of 100, Davis was far from many prognosticators' minds but inevitably hoisted the trophy.

The teen that preceded her, Kajitani, hadn’t won an event since two years prior to her ANWA victory. Surprises left and right accompanied her victory. First, it was making the cut, but it was the unlikely ending to her final round; a double bogey on the 17th before a par save on 18 for a 72 matched her up with Emilia Migliaccio for one playoff par to the championship.

Will Youth Be Served?

Gianna Clemente and Yana Wilson
A total of 15 juniors join this year’s field, all packing dazzling resumes dotted with historical achievements and a bevy of professional appearances. Davis leads the pack, but between Gianna Clemente’s historic run of LPGA Monday qualifying, Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Eila Galitsky, and U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Saki Baba, there’s no shortage of talent to go around. Mamika Shinchi, 15, ranks No. 14 in the WAGR – kicking her year off as a runner-up at the Australian Master of the Amateurs to her fellow countrywoman and junior Yuna Araki.

Springboard to Success

Jennifer Kupcho
It should come as no surprise past ANWA participants have gone on to find great success in their professional careers. Jennifer Kupcho, who won the inaugural ANWA championship in 2021, broke through with her first major championship last year at the Chevron Championship. 2021 U.S. Women's Open champion Yuka Saso was also part of the initial ANWA field as was former LPGA and LET Rookie of the Year Atthaya Thitikul, who ascended to World No. 1 last fall. ANWA alumnae Maja Stark and Andrea Lee have also posted wins on the LPGA Tour.

Is Another Thrilling Finish in Store?

Tsubasa Kajitani
The first three ANWAs have 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. Two years later, 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. And just last year, Latanna Stone seemed to have her hands on the trophy with a two-stroke lead with three holes remaining but a double bogey on 17 followed by a bogey on the last gave Anna Davis the title.

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 Champions 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 the Masters, concluding on Saturday.

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