Gianna Clemente (ANWA photo)
The 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur is creating its own unique tale, with the women’s amateur game on its most visible stage in recent memory.
All eyes are on Rose Zhang after she iconically slayed Champions Retreat with rounds of 66-65, pulling even further away from the field with a 5-shot lead heading into Saturday’s final round at Augusta National.
Behind her is a bevy of talented players; women who are seeking to make their own indelible mark on the women’s amateur game, with a chance to play a competitive round at Augusta National in 2023. Veterans, young guns – all 31 breathed a sigh of relief once the second round at Champions Retreat concluded.
Here are some observations leading into the big finale that awaits.
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Rose Zhang’s No. 1 Fan
Rose Zhang was in the mood to break her own championship record, one-upping day one’s 66 with a 65. Though the entire golf world has kept a close eye on her campaign, one special person got a front-row seat to it all: her dad, Henry.
Rose Zhang and her father Henry
Though her introduction to the sport was directly from dad, the two couldn’t be any more different: Henry exudes a high energy, talkative approach, while Rose maintains a stoic, steady nature on the course, making the two an excellent pair. From maniacally sweeping pines away from her line to minor disagreements over looks on the greens, Rose credits the person who stood beside her from day one for her epic performance at Champions Retreat.
“He’s taught me everything I know from my character to essentially my golf too,” Rose said. “Coming down 18, I can tell he’s being more chatty and he’s got that adrenaline in him. I’m just super grateful to be able to walk this step with him every single way.”
For her final round, Rose will recruit an Augusta caddie but says she cherishes the 36 holes of memories made with her number one fan.
The Great Chase
A five-shot margin isn’t stopping Ole Miss’s Andrea Lignell at ANWA, who many may remember as a pivotal part of her college team’s National Championship run after going 3-0-0 in match play. Rounds of 67-69 have kept her lingering closest to the leader…but she appreciates the lack of pressure associated.
“A lot of the attention will be on her, and if I get to play with her, that’s really cool.”
The first-timer implemented plenty of work to improve her game this past year, including a putting project and she’s proven this event is exactly where she belongs. “A lot of the greens are kind of diagonal left to right, which kind of fits me with my draw as a lefty.” Could she see the same lefty luck Anna Davis did in 2022?
Just one shot behind Lignell is Georgia senior Jenny Bae, who embarks on a home game once again and is putting on a career performance at ANWA. A smoother day two with five birdies and just one bogey for a 68 and six-back has her expressing a little more self-love: “I’m really proud of myself. I don’t really say that about myself, and I should start to.”
The Curtis Cup (almost) Cut
A majority of the legendary Curtis Cup crew at ANWA had a little bit of work to do to make this year's cut. While Zhang has stole the show, her Stanford teammate Megha Ganne jumped into the top-10 with a 2-under 70 that featured a four-birdie heater. Latanna Stone steadily booked her return to Augusta National with a 71, and Amari Avery recovered from a first-round 75 to post a 71.
But two players struggled to find red numbers, with Migliaccio finishing on just one shot above the cut line with a 74, and Jensen Castle forced to clutch out a birdie on the 18th to book her ticket after a rollercoaster of a round.
“I knew I was already out of it tied at 32 when I had that putt,” she said, having played 5-over thru 17. The U.S. Women’s Amateur champion’s lingering rib injury has continued to aggravate her throughout the week, but she persisted. “It’s really hard to trust that you’re one out of it with one to play and to put yourself in that position and know that it’s going to equal out.”
A Historic Ace
ANWA’s first-ever ace was dunked by Bohyun Park, who claims she thinned her club on hole No. 8 before a nice bounce reassured her of her target selection. Figuring that was enough, she turned her attention away from the green before a few cheers confirmed a hole-in-one. “That was a really unexpected, out-of-the-blue hole-in-one. I was just glad that I got on the green.” But the talented ANWA first-timer, who advanced to Saturday’s final round, admits she’s lost count of her aces – claiming it could be her fifth or sixth.
The More the Merrier
For the first time in ANWA history, the top 30 AND ties advanced to Saturday’s round at Augusta National, for a total of 31 players. That gave some wiggle room to names like Jensen Castle, Amari Avery, Megan Schofill and Lottie Woad, who could have ended up in a 4-for-2 playoff under the event’s previous format.
Youth is Not Wasted on the Young
At only 15, Gianna Clemente has been on the biggest stages more often than many of the competitors in the ANWA field. So it’s no shock that Clemente made the cut at her very first Augusta National Women’s Amateur…as the youngest player to ever do so. A 2-over 74 had her in a decent position to make the top-30, but she still had some work to do to secure it. Two morning bogeys threw her morning off before she drained a 50-footer on No. 2, producing a four birdie tear on her front nine.
Now, she relishes in the chance to return to the spotlight: “I love the crowds, love the attention, I love the roars and the cheers…I expect myself to acclimate to that pretty easily.”
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