Golf

What to know ahead of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur

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The most prestigious women’s amateur tournament in the sport turns five this year as 72 of the best in the world will descend on Georgia for the 2024 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

The 54-hole tournament will begin Wednesday with two rounds over two days at the nearby Champions’ Retreat Golf Club. As in years past, after the first 36 holes at Champions’ Retreat, the field will be cut to the top 30 players (including ties) before a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club Friday and the final round on Saturday, April 6.

Last year’s champion, Rose Zhang, is not in the field as she turned pro following her 2023 victory, but the field on hand includes one previous winner and plenty of other talented players looking to have their name forever linked with this historic venue.

Here are four questions to get you ready for this year’s tournament:


Who are the favorites?

Much like Zhang last year, Ingrid Lindblad has compiled a college and amateur résumé that seems to be missing only one thing: a win at Augusta. The LSU graduate student just set an SEC record with a win at her 14th college tournament by shooting 18 under, 10 shots better than second place. Lindblad isn’t just the top-ranked female amateur in the world; she has dominated LPGA Q-school and could have likely gone pro at any point over the past two years. Instead, the Swedish national has stayed at LSU in pursuit of a national title (she already has an SEC championship) and of course, a win at ANWA.

Lindblad has come close. She finished tied for third place in 2021 and tied for second place in 2022. Last year, a missed cut felt like an aberration, and this year, she’s hoping the fourth time’s the charm as she attempts to put the finishing touches on what is already an impeccable amateur career.

You don’t have to go very far to find another potential favorite for this year’s tournament. Lindblad’s LSU teammate Latanna Stone is not far behind Lindblad in terms of accomplishments and recent form. Stone finished tied for second place in 2022 along with Lindblad and, since she’s a fifth-year college student, this is also her last attempt at winning the prestigious event.

Stone’s most recent appearance in the spotlight was at last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, where she made the championship match but — having dealt with a muscle strain during the week — lost to Auburn’s Megan Schofill.

Schofill is another name to watch. Her win at the U.S. Women’s Am last year was impressive, and she’s now heading into her fourth ANWA having tallied up four top-10 finishes in tournaments already this season.

Rounding out some of this year’s favorites are Spain’s Julia Lopez Ramirez — ranked second in the world in the amateur women’s golf rankings and making her second appearance at ANWA — and England’s Lottie Woad, who has six top-eight finishes this season while at Florida State University and is ranked fourth in the world.


Is experience at Augusta National a difference-maker?

Though ANWA is still in its nascent stages, there are now players in this year’s field who have played in every one of the tournament’s events since its inception. Players who have undergone “the Augusta National experience” in years past might be more comfortable playing on the historic course once more.

Some of the players who will have more familiarity than most with this event are 21-year-old Amanda Sambach (currently the 12th-ranked women’s amateur in the world), who is making her fourth appearance; Emilia Migliaccio in her fifth ANWA appearance; and Spain’s Carolina Chacarra (sister of LIV player Eugenio Chacarra), playing in her fourth ANWA, though she has yet to make the final round.

This year will also be Amari Avery‘s fourth attempt at winning this tournament, and so far, the USC junior has had every kind of finish: a missed cut in her debut, a tie for fourth in 2022 and a tie for 29th last year.

For players like Lindblad and Stone, the potential to win ANWA was a factor in their decision to remain in school for another year and not turn pro. While Rachel Kuehn has not said that this tournament is what brought her back for a fifth year at Wake Forest, her fourth appearance at Augusta comes after achieving the ultimate college goal: winning a national championship in 2023. Adding ANWA to a résumé that includes four All-American selections wouldn’t be such a bad way to finish off her college career.


Will quantity turn into quality for Japan and Stanford?

Despite featuring 37 players from the United States, ANWA has always included a number of talented competitors from all over the world. No country outside the United States will be more well-represented at the event this year than Japan, which will have eight players participating and boasts the tournament’s only international winner: Tsubasa Kajitani (2021).

Kajitani is not in the field this year, but the group is led by 18-year-old Yuna Araki, who is ranked eighth in the world after winning three amateur world events in 2023, as well as Kokoro Nakamura, also 18, who won the 2023 Japan Girls’ Junior Championship. Overall, seven of the eight participants from Japan are ranked inside the top 50 women amateurs in the world.

Stanford, for its part, boasts nine players in this year’s field, further cementing its position as the sport’s preeminent college program. Perhaps the most recognizable name in the group is Rachel Heck, who announced last week that she has opted to forgo turning professional and will remain an amateur even after she leaves Stanford.

Joining her is Megha Ganne, who is coming off a top-10 finish at the tournament last year and a win in the 2023 Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach, as well as 21-year-old senior Sadie Englemann, who won the 2023 East Lake Cup. Only one Cardinal is currently ranked inside the top 10 in the world, however, and that’s Meja Ortengren from Sweden. Nineteen-year-old Ortengren is merely a Stanford commit at the moment, but she already has shown she has the game to be one of the program’s best players.


Can another young player win?

As touched on above, ANWA experience is starting to become a real thing. And yet, the past three winners were teenagers. Zhang, Anna Davis and Kajitani were all 19 or younger, and Davis remains the youngest winner in tournament history at 16 years old during her 2022 win.

Though she missed the cut last year, the now-18-year-old Davis (currently ranked 17th in the world) is back in Augusta for the third time and looking to become the only two-time winner in the tournament’s history.

Inside the top 10 in the women’s world amateur rankings are two other 18-year-olds who could make some noise: the aforementioned Araki and Germany’s Helen Briem. Briem is coming off making history for her country as the first German winner in the 104-year history of the R&A’s Girl Amateur championship.

Other young players to watch include Thailand’s Eila Galitsky, who won the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific in 2023, as well as 16-year-old Gianna Clemente, who made her ANWA debut last year at 15 and finished one place better than her age — 14th. Clemente also won the 2023 Girls’ Junior PGA Championship. Spain’s Cayetana Fernandez Garcia-Poggio is another 18-year-old who proved she belonged in her debut last year as she finished 23rd and made three birdies on Augusta’s iconic back nine.

Source : ESPN.com

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