After heartbreak in 2022, Latanna Stone is back at ANWA one last time
Latanna Stone (USGA Photo)
Latanna Stone (USGA Photo)

Golf is constantly asking the question: How are you going to deal with failure?

Latanna Stone hopes that on April 6, at Augusta National, she doesn’t have to answer that question again. Even if just for a day.

The LSU star has come agonizingly close to winning two of the most coveted championships in women’s amateur golf over the last two years. A runner-up finish in the 2022 Augusta Women’s Amateur is part of the reason Stone returned to Baton Rouge for another year of college golf. She wanted one last chance at competing for that trophy on some of golf’s most hallowed land.

For a player of Stone’s quality, being in the hunt shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a 10-year-old, the Florida native qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur. She backed that up with an appearance as a 12-year-old, too. In 2023, Stone reached the championship match of the U.S. Women’s Amateur, but she lost to Megan Schofill while battling a muscle strain sustained during the week. A hobbled Stone was gracious in defeat.

U.S. Women's Amateur: Megan Schofill holds off Latanna Stone to win

“You know, even though it didn't turn out the way that I wanted it to, I'm just so happy and so grateful to be here, you know, get this opportunity and this experience and just go and play golf,” Stone said following the loss. She is currently ranked No. 8 in the Golfweek/ Women's Rankings.

LSU women’s golf coach Garrett Runion compared Stone to a duck.

“Everything just rolls off her back,” Runion said.

He recalled a story from the Palmer Cup when Stone's clubs were lost in transit. It seems to be a regular story these days when golfers have to travel, but Stone wasn't rattled, and she competed with a borrowed set of clubs.

That attitude has made Stone a leader on the Tiger’s team. Runion sees it each and every day he’s with his squad.

“She’s the vibe manager of the team,” Runion said. “She gets along with everybody. Her mood affects everybody's mood, and she's got a great sense of humor. She can laugh at herself.”

Sleeping on the lead in the ANWA is no laughing matter. In 2022, Stone held a two-shot lead with two holes to play. She had birdied the 16th hole, just like Jack Nicklaus in 1986 and Tiger Woods in 2019. A two at 16 is often a harbinger of good things to come.

Unfortunately, Stone hit a poor chip on the 17th hole, made a double bogey, and followed that up with a bogey on the 18th hole. She came up one shot shy of Anna Davis’ score of even par.

“It's just heartbreaking, you know? I kind of knew where I stood on 17, and I was just thinking par out. I just didn't have the right club and kind of left myself with a difficult up-and-down,” Stone said after the round. “I was trying to be aggressive and just kind of lost it, but I thought I could get it back on 18, but I had a lot going on in my head with where I was at.”

After the round, she was asked how she’d move on from the disappointing finish.

"I don't know. Usually my friends help me a lot with that. They distract me when I'm having a bad time, so probably lean on them a little bit.”

A year later, when she returned to the ANWA, Stone talked about a mini shopping spree in the merchandise tent after the final round in 2022.

“They were closing in like 30 minutes, so I had 30 minutes to browse and I just started grabbing things off the shelves. My poor boyfriend had a whole pile of stuff in his hands,” Stone said. “Then they said five minutes until closing, and I walked away with a lot of things, so it was very nice. Retail therapy.”

Runion was there when Stone walked off the 18th hole at Augusta surrounded by cameras and the media, having to answer questions. She did it gracefully, a 21 year old who just let a historic victory slip through her fingers.

“I remember she let out a big sigh when it was all done, and then she just moved on,” Runion said.

Just like water off a duck’s back.

Stone gave credit to Runion for helping her process adversity and teaching her a valuable lesson.

“Just taking your losses the right way and learning from them,” Stone said in 2023 at ANWA. “And then you can have your wins be greater in that sort of way. I don't really know how to explain it, but it's a good quote, I think.”

A look at that 2022 ANWA leaderboard shows that Stone and her college teammate, Ingrid Lindblad, were both one shot behind Davis’ winning score. In 2023, Stone played admirably again and recorded another top-10 finish. Rounds of 73-71-72 put Stone at even par for the second straight year. Runion said he would miss Stone's consistency; look no further than those three rounds in 2023 and combine them with three straight rounds of 72 in 2022 to highlight just how steady Stone can be on the course.

The duo of Stone and Lindblad has played together for five years now. Runion sees two players with very opposite approaches.

“If I give the team a weekend off, Latanna won’t touch her clubs,” Runion said. “But Ingrid will be down at the facility practicing.”

In Runion’s assessment, Stone is very good at separating her golf from the rest of her life. She's self-assured enough to know a few days without playing golf won't set her back. Both Stone and Lindblad know what they need to succeed; the fact that they have different approaches is what has made them such great teammates.

“When she's done with golf for the day, there's zero talking about golf in the van” Runion said. “She just doesn't want to talk about what happened, whether it was good or bad.”

As a senior, Stone is laying the groundwork for the next era of LSU Tigers. 

"She's taken Jordan Fischer under her wing this year," Runion said. "Jordan is from Germany but went to high school in Florida. She's been a huge help in supporting her."

In her five years at LSU, Stone has won two events: the NCAA Regional and the Nexus Collegiate. Both came in the spring of 2023. She has also tallied 17 top-ten finishes, including three runner-up finishes.

Lindblad, the current No. 1 women's amateur in the world, set the record for most wins by an SEC golfer in March when she won the Clemson Invitational with a rousing 10-shot victory; her prowess probably took a few wins off of Stone’s resume.

It’s not about what’s in the past that matters to Stone, though. She and Lindblad both returned for an extra year to chase a couple of goals. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur is one jewel they’d both like to win. But they’d also like to go out on top as teammates and win a NCCA title and ride off into the sunset.

With all the failures that golf throws at each and every player, many of Stone's have been in the spotlight. A win in that same spotlight would go a long way in making her fifth year at LSU well worth it and catapult her into a final push for a few more trophies.

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.

View Complete Tournament Information

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