ANWA: Favorites, contenders and darkhorses
Rose Zhang (Golfweek photo)
Rose Zhang (Golfweek photo)

If there’s anything we’ve come to learn in the first few years of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, it’s that any type of champion is possible.

Let’s reflect.

The inaugural event in 2019 produced a thrilling duel between two of the top players in college golf, Maria Fassi of Arkansas and Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest. In 2021, Tsubasa Kajitani, a relatively unknown player from Japan, overcame a slew of big names on the back nine and eventually prevailed in a playoff against Emilia Migliaccio. Just last year, Anna Davis, a bucket hat-wearing junior player from San Diego carded a clutch final round 69 to earn a one-stroke victory over LSU teammates Ingrid Lindblad and Latanna Stone.

Factor in the talent of this year’s field, and it’s safe to say 2023 could be anyone’s championship. But there’s a special list of players who might have the best shot, those who are right there, and those who could emerge as a pleasant surprise.

Meet this year’s favorites, contenders, and dark horses for the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

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Saki Baba

It’s tough to believe this is Saki Baba’s first ANWA, but her return to the United States is sure to keep many on notice. Her recent momentum from a made cut at the Honda LPGA Thailand will surely serve her well, but it’s her absolute sweep of the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay last year that’s made her unforgettable. The 11&9 victory over Monet Chun tied for the third-largest margin of victory in the championship’s 122-year history.

Anna Davis

For the first time in championship history, the defending champion will return to keep her trophy. A lot has changed in a year for the 17-year-old: She is now a top-10 player, has played three majors and has verbally committed to playing college golf at Auburn. In mid-March, just a few minutes down the road, she won the Sage Valley Junior Invitational, a not-so-subtle reminder that Davis can still dominate the area nearly a year later.

Ingrid Lindblad

The Swedish sensation has made two appearances at ANWA, tied for third in 2019 and finished runner-up last year. With 10 collegiate victories to her credit and a strong showing at the U.S. Women's Open last summer, the LSU senior is again trending well heading to Augusta. The stages are only getting bigger and brighter for Lindblad, and she's a strong favorite to lift the trophy come Saturday.

Latanna Stone

Stone was able to turn her near-miss at ANWA last year into a positive as she continued to flourish despite a heartbreaking loss at Augusta. She rebounded to help LSU win the SEC team title, was part of a victorious USA Curtis Cup team, was one of three medalists at the U.S. Women's Amateur and picked up her first collegiate victory in February at the Nexus Collegiate. Stone is well worth keeping in the conversation.

Rose Zhang

Zhang has been the top-ranked female amateur in the world for three years for a reason. The reigning NCAA women's individual champion has five wins this season for top-ranked Stanford, running her career total to nine in 16 starts. Her best finish at ANWA was a tie for third in 2021 after a triple bogey on No. 13 derailed her championship hopes. A win at Augusta would round out one of the most impressive amateur resumes of all-time.

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Related: ANWA: Top Storylines Worth Following

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Amari Avery
Positive momentum is never too far behind Amari Avery. Though the wins came fast in her freshman year, she’s quickly erased any idea of a sophomore slump. Opening up the fall at USC with a win and entering ANWA with a top-five at the Juli Inkster Meadow Club Collegiate. Her first ANWA in 2021 amounted to a missed cut, but she returned in 2022 looking like a completely different player, finishing tied for fourth after steadily conquering both Champions Retreat and Augusta National.

Jensen Castle

Stress fracture, rusty game: Castle prevailed as the No. 63 seed to win one of the most U.S. Women’s Amateurs in recent memory. She’s spent her senior year at Kentucky thriving, ending the fall with her first collegiate win and notching a myriad of top-15 finishes otherwise. Under the best and worst of circumstances, Castle knows how to come out on top. Don’t keep this queen out of the conversation.

Rachel Kuehn

Rachel Kuehn’s red-hot March began with a local win of her own at Forest Hills Golf Club. The six-time collegiate champion has spent her entire career at the top, and is only getting better at ANWA with time. A missed cut in 2021 was old news once she carded a 69 in her first competitive round at Augusta National. The Wake Forest senior has made southeast golf her stomping ground and is sure to make some noise at the top of this year’s leaderboard.

Caley McGinty
Don’t let McGinty’s world ranking fool you; she’s already notched two victories in 2023. She opened the year with a three-shot win at the South America Women’s Amateur and earned her first victory as an Ohio State Buckeye at the Westbrook Invitational. The well-traveled McGinty, who began her collegiate career at Kent State, then made a stop at Oklahoma State before settling in at Columbus. Six victories later, she has soared through the ranks as one of college golf’s premier players.

Emilia Migliaccio
The 2021 runner-up spent a one-year hiatus away from college golf to kickstart her golf journalism career before returning to Wake Forest for a fifth season. So far, she’s been hardly out of practice. Her last go at ANWA resulted in a missed cut, but with plenty of reps and a win under her belt in the calendar year, Migliaccio’s confidence is renewed. Paired with her veteran experience, it’s hard to imagine a final round without her.

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Related: ANWA: Most Intriguing Players in the Field

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Dark Horses

Jenny Bae
A return to ANWA for Jenny Bae could put her in the hunt for her first big win outside the college schedule. Her first try amounted to a missed cut, but don’t sleep on this talented player. It’s typical to find Bae atop an SEC leaderboard, and with two collegiate wins under her belt (NCAA Columbus Regional, Illini Women’s Invitational), Bae is still looking to make a bigger splash on an even bigger stage and seems poised to showcase her talents in the biggest stage in amateur golf.

Gianna Clemente

The U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up took the golf world by storm after falling to Yana Wilson. Tying for a record three Monday qualifiers into three LPGA events, Clemente has continued to capitalize. Her whirlwind past year hasn’t stopped there; she immediately opened the new year with a win at The SALLY, an event that boasts a rich history of LPGA success stories.

Hannah Darling
The stalwart of Great Britain & Ireland's Curtis Cup team knows a thing or two about toughing it out, but despite making the cut, struggled in her first appearance at Augusta National, carding a final round 79. But the South Carolina sophomore has maintained a good pace in her second season in Columbia, with ten top-10 finishes. Known for her grit, the Scottish player could come out on fire on this big week.

Julia Lopez Ramirez
Even one year older, the SEC’s Freshman of the Year has continued to live up to conference glory. Surprisingly an ANWA first-timer, Lopez Ramirez has been a sharp player in 2023 with two top-fives and a top-15 so far. In the fall, she won one of the season’s toughest events, the Blessings Collegiate, by six shots.

Jeneath Wong
Wong has wasted little time bringing her A-game all the way from Melbourne, Australia. The two-time Australian Girls Amateur champion rose through the recruiting ranks and landed an offer from Pepperdine. Even at 5’0”, she’s quickly made her presence felt on the collegiate scene. In just three starts, Wong has acquired two top-five finishes. Upon her signing, head coach Laurie Gibbs called her a future “four-time All-American” who could “go on to win on the LPGA Tour.”

All players listed alphabetically. We'll leave the handicapping to you.

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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