The best women amateurs in the world compete at Champions Retreat (ANWA)
Champions Retreat Golf Club has spent a lot of time in the shadows.
Yes, it sits among the unassuming suburbs of Evans, Georgia. Yes, live oaks shade the winding roads leading into muted earthy-toned cottages. Even further, the course reveals three nines designed by some of the greatest to ever play the game; Palmer’s Island, Nicklaus’s Bluff, and Player’s Creek. But aside from some press and yearly visits from Gary Player every Masters week, the course had seldom seen the world stage.
RELATED: Record round gives Rose Zhang first round lead at Augusta National Women's Amateur
Until one fateful April 4, 2018, when Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley announced the inclusion of Champions Retreat in the birth of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. For four years, the venue has hosted a two-day stroke play dogfight on the marshy Island and hilly Bluff nines to determine the field best suited to embark on Augusta National.
“It’s such an honor to be a small part of such a big event that brings so much attention to women in the sport,” said a spokesperson for Champions Retreat. Between the second and third year of the championship, the course underwent a significant renovation, replacing its bent grass with Bermuda grass. Coupled with high winds and weather delays, scores trended higher the following year – but it was a change that went mostly unseen in the general context of the championship.
Really, much of the narrative has surrounded what could be seen. For the first three years of the championship, the final round at Augusta National was the only visible round of competition, overshadowing two-thirds of the championship. But for the first time, 2023’s ANWA has a scheduled broadcast for every single round – showcasing every part of the story to the top of the championship.
“You can’t quite get ahead of yourself and think about Augusta National,” Rachel Kuehn
said. “It’s one of the hardest cuts to make in amateur golf for sure.” Kuehn, one of the best players in the entire world, is not exempt. Her personal history at this championship has seen its ups and downs, missing the cut in 2021 and finishing seventh in 2022. Her first round in 2023, subject to tough winds and fast, firm greens, has her sitting two shots outside of the number.
Rose Zhang leads after day 1 at the ANWA
But one player cruised through a venue that has tested her in all four years she has played it – and shattered the championship scoring record in the process.
“From the start of the round, I just wanted to make pars because at Champions Retreat, you never know what you’re gonna get,” Rose Zhang
said after her first round on Wednesday. A 6-under 66 was not on the star’s bingo card, joking that her practice round looked more like something in the 80s. “I’ve seen the golf course pretty often the last couple years. So I kind of know for the most part what I’m going to get out here.”
Another chapter in the story of one of the greatest careers in amateur golf, Zhang’s record-breaking round played out in real-time for all to see – instead of tucked in the shadows of a scorecard. That’s pretty typical for most of the events Zhang has played throughout her epic career. But with ANWA quickly ascending to the biggest week in women’s amateur golf, Zhang’s quest to complete the unofficial “grand slam” in women’s amateur golf is in full view.
But not far behind Zhang on the leaderboard are names like Andrea Lignell, Jenny Bae, and Antonia Malate – who each have yet to fully make their mark on women’s amateur golf. With a sliver of renown Zhang is accustomed to, a prolific event like the ANWA introduces their names to a general audience. Jensen Castle
and Emilia Migliaccio
, similar to Zhang, have become household names in the women’s amateur space; Castle, a U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, and Migliaccio, an ANWA runner-up, with opportunities to continue bolstering their places in the game.
All of that took place on a course that sits 15 miles away from the most hallowed grounds in golf.
And that’s only the start. So let’s hear it for Champions Retreat: a site that has birthed, amplified, and uplifted the biggest stars in the women’s amateur game – and will only continue to do so.
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
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
Masters, concluding on Saturday.
View Complete Tournament Information