This week, for the fourth time in 5 years, one of the best beginner ladies’s gamers on the earth will descend upon Augusta, Georgia, forward of the fourth installment of the Augusta Nationwide Girls’s Newbie.
In only a brief time period, the ANWA has turn out to be a premier showcase of the abundance of expertise within the ladies’s beginner sport and one of the crucial anticipated occasions of the golf season. From 16-year-olds able to win to a deep worldwide subject to viral bucket hats and one of the best beginner participant on the earth, this occasion has loads of returning gamers and a plethora of storylines.
Listed below are a couple of that we’re wanting ahead to.
Can Anna Davis be the primary to defend her title?
The woman with the bucket hat is again, and he or she is ready to defend her stunning win finally 12 months’s occasion when she was 16 years outdated. Davis admitted earlier this week in her information convention that, though being accustomed to the match and the programs (the primary two rounds are performed at close by Champions Retreat) can be useful this time round, the lack of some naivete about your entire expertise is perhaps a problem.
“Going into final 12 months I did not actually know any of the historical past, I did not know a lot about it, and I feel that gave me a bonus on the sphere, simply not likely feeling the stress of being at Augusta Nationwide,” Davis mentioned. “I feel it is a little bit completely different this 12 months, as a result of now the highlight goes to be on me taking part in on that golf course. So I feel it is perhaps a little bit of a drawback, however I do not suppose I can let it get in my head.”
Davis spoke to the media final week from her room at Champions Retreat, the place she stayed and practiced earlier than the match. The timing was lucky. She was achieved with midterms throughout her first 12 months at Auburn and heading into spring break, permitting her time to follow on the course the place she might want to carry out properly twice to make it to the ultimate spherical at Augusta Nationwide.
“I feel it is neglected within the media how laborious this golf course is,” Davis mentioned “It is mentally very difficult to play this golf course, understanding that you must play properly right here simply to get to play Augusta on the ultimate day. There’s simply not a single gap on this golf course which you could lose concentrate on.”
From being a junior golfer and one of many youngest finally 12 months’s match to sounding like a seasoned veteran, life has come at Davis fairly quick since she received the ANWA and have become a viral sensation for her bucket hat. It hasn’t affected her efficiency, nonetheless. The eighth-ranked beginner golfer on the earth is coming off a win on the Sage Valley Junior Invitational, a top-five end on the Dustin Johnson World Junior and a win on the Junior Orange Bowl Invitational.
Davis mentioned she had discussions about turning professional after taking part in in some LPGA occasions final 12 months, however she in the end determined it wasn’t the time and that she needed to expertise school, too.
“On the finish of the day I made a decision I wanted extra expertise in several conditions, completely different sorts of stress conditions,” Davis mentioned. “I’ve by no means actually had that earlier than the place I’ve to win, or I’ve to make a putt to win. Or I’ve to return again and win, stuff like that made me determine that I wanted extra expertise within the beginner facet of golf. And , have a life for a couple of years outdoors of golf.”
As for this 12 months’s title protection, Davis did say she’ll have her bucket hat in tow, however her temper will decide whether or not she wears it. One factor she won’t be having no matter her temper? Pimento cheese sandwiches.
“I do know the pimento cheese is a very massive factor,” Davis mentioned with amusing, “however I simply can’t recover from how gross it’s.”
Is the fourth time the appeal for Rose Zhang?
All eyes are on Rose Zhang — and for good purpose. The highest beginner participant on the earth is in solely her second 12 months at Stanford, however at 19 years outdated, her résumé can already fill a small e book.
Zhang received the U.S. Girls’s Newbie in 2020, the U.S. Ladies Junior championship in 2021 in addition to each the crew and particular person NCAA championships in 2022. Her particular person accolades embrace profitable the McCormick Medal (the highest beginner on the earth) three completely different occasions, the ANNIKA award (high ladies’s beginner) twice in addition to a slew of different Pac-12 honors.
She has additionally made the minimize in any respect 4 majors she has appeared in, together with a T-11 end on the Chevron Championship in 2020. You get the purpose. Zhang is not simply good — she has received almost all the pieces potential as an beginner. Besides the ANWA.
In three appearances on the match, Zhang has completed tied for seventeenth, tied for third and tied for twelfth. She has carried out properly, but it surely’s a testomony to the depth of the sphere (and the game as an entire) that she has but to win at this occasion.
It is unclear what number of extra occasions Zhang will play at this occasion — she opted to return to high school after her freshman 12 months and does not seem like in a rush to show skilled. But it surely’s additionally laborious to think about her having a greater shot the best way she’s taking part in. Zhang has completed first in six of her previous seven occasions. There is no doubt she’s prepared for the professional sport, however including a win at ANWA to her intensive résumé could be the becoming crown jewel on high of her dominant beginner profession.
Remember about Ingrid Lindblad
Whereas Zhang is perhaps the main target of many, a 23-year-old from Sweden taking part in in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ought to garner consideration, too. Nobody with a number of appearances at ANWA has performed extra persistently than Ingrid Lindblad.
In 2021, Lindblad tied with Zhang and her Stanford teammate Rachel Heck for third, one stroke behind the leaders (Japan’s Tsubasa Kajitani went on to beat Emilia Migliaccio in a playoff). Throughout final 12 months’s match, the LSU senior fell one stroke in need of Davis and completed tied for second.
Regardless of the loss, the outcome appeared to gas her for the remainder of the season. Two weeks after ANWA, Lindblad received the SEC title and completed third within the NCAA championships. Then, she went to the U.S. Girls’s Open at Pine Needles and proceeded to hover across the high of a leaderboard full of the sport’s finest execs all through the week. She ended up ending eleventh however took dwelling the match’s 18-hole beginner file in addition to a bunch of latest followers of her sport and affable demeanor on the rostrum.
“I do not suppose I ever realized what occurred,” Lindblad mentioned a day after breaking the file on the U.S. Open in June. “I do not suppose I notice how massive it’s. It is like everytime you come to an enormous beginner match, like once I performed Augusta for the primary time final 12 months, I used to be like, I did not notice how massive that is till you get there and all the eye you get.”
The eye hasn’t stopped for Lindblad, as a result of she has solely continued to play higher. Since being within the U.S. Open highlight, the LSU Tiger who — as her coach mentioned, famously ordered child again ribs on her recruiting go to — has had seven top-10 finishes and one win. All of it led to her changing into the No. 2-ranked beginner on the earth and one of many names to look at as she will get one other crack at including the ANWA title to her beginner profession.
Worldwide expertise, homegrown stars
Past Lindblad, the crop of worldwide gamers on this 12 months’s subject at Augusta is stellar and deep. Greater than half of the gamers within the subject — 41 of 72 to be precise — are from outdoors the USA, led by 10 gamers from Japan, essentially the most from any nation within the occasion’s brief historical past.
Japan’s Tsubasa Kajitani returns to ANWA after a one-year hiatus. The then-17-year-old received the 2021 match in a playoff regardless of not having a single win over two years heading into the occasion. However maybe the most important identify from Japan is 17-year-old Saki Baba, who’s contemporary off profitable the U.S. Girls’s Newbie final 12 months at Chambers Bay in dominating vogue. Baba took down her opponent 11 and 9 within the last match because of aggressive method play and the nice old school technique of constructing each single putt.
Baba is a star within the making and despite the fact that she’s prone to set her sights on the skilled sport eventually, a much-anticipated ANWA look for the teenager from Tokyo might see her lifting the trophy by Sunday.
On the American facet, one might guess on any of the members of the profitable 2022 Curtis Cup crew. All members of the crew that features Zhang acquired invitations to the match. Zhang’s teammate Rachel Heck will be unable to compete due to a shoulder damage, however standouts like USC sophomore Amari Avery (who completed tied for fourth final 12 months and is No. 9 on the earth), Stanford freshman Megha Ganne, Wake Forest’s Rachel Kuehn (No. 4 on the earth) and the aforementioned Migliaccio all have the expertise to be on the high of the leaderboard this week.
Then once more, if this match has proven something thus far, it is that the favorites do not normally find yourself profitable and underdogs have simply nearly as good a possibility to make a run. Between Kajitani and Davis (who was ranked one hundredth going into final 12 months’s ANWA), the door will as soon as once more be extensive open for any participant within the subject to sew collectively three nice rounds of golf and are available out on high.