The stage is set for the second annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur as an elite field of 82 players from 25 different countries readies for the start of the championship, to be played Wednesday, March 31 – Saturday, April 3 at both Champions Retreat Golf Club and Augusta National Golf Club.
The first two rounds will be held at Champions Retreat on Wednesday and Thursday, and a cut will be made with the top 30 players advancing to Saturday’s final round at Augusta National.
All participants will play a practice round at Augusta National, the home of the Masters Tournament, on Friday.
A star-studded field of the world’s top amateurs awaits the challenge ahead. Thirty-six of the top 50 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, as of March 30, will be in action this week, including 21 of the top 25 ranked players.
Rose Zhang, who has held the No. 1 position in the rankings for 28 consecutive weeks, had not played in a tournament all year until making her Symetra Tour debut just last week. In a stellar showing, Zhang proceeded to fire consecutive rounds of 66 over the final two days of play, finishing runner-up after a playoff and proving that she is in top form entering this week.
“As long as I play my own game and satisfy my own criteria, I think that I will feel accomplished. I’m going to stick to my game plan and see how it goes from there.” - Rose Zhang.
Zhang, 17, competed in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019 and tied for 17th place at only 15 years old.
“I usually come into any event with no expectations,” Zhang said. “As long as I play my own game and satisfy my own criteria, I think that I will feel accomplished. I’m going to stick to my game plan and see how it goes from there.”
Siyun Liu, who affectionately goes by the nickname “Swing,” had not been able to see her family for more than 14 months because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Her father, Weiqing, flew to the United States from China last week and will caddie for his daughter.
“I can’t even express how grateful I am for this opportunity on so many different levels,” said Liu, a graduate student at Wake Forest University. “I grew up in China and my family just has this tradition of staying up all night to watch the Masters. Even my mum, who doesn’t play golf at all. So, it’s just super cool for me to have this opportunity to play at two amazing courses and actually set my feet on Augusta National and just experience it myself.”
Alexa Melton, a sophomore at the University of Southern California, withdrew from the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur because of a wrist injury only days before the championship started. Following a two-year wait, Melton will have the honour of hitting the first shot of the championship, as she tees off at 7:45 a.m. alongside former Drive, Chip and Putt National Finalist Ashley Gilliam.
“I definitely think everything happens for a reason,” Melton said. “I’m very excited to start the week.”
Paula Schulz-Hanssen is ranked No. 8 in the world, despite not having played in a competitive event since early October. Her last appearance was a victory at the European Ladies’ Amateur Championship in Slovenia.
“I’ve grown up watching all my heroes play, so to finally be here is such a dream come true.” - Brianna Navarrosa.
The weather has been chilly at home in her native Germany, but that hasn’t prevented her from preparing solely for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur for most of the past six months. She recently arrived in Florida and has spent the past eight days putting the finishing touches on her preparation.
“We watched internet videos about the course and just what kind of shots I would need, and I’ve practiced that,” said the 17-year-old. “I’ve been preparing for this tournament a long time.”
Alexa Pano, at 16 years old, remains the youngest player in the ANWA field for the second consecutive championship. She participated in the inaugural event as a 14-year-old and is a two-time Drive, Chip and Putt National Champion.
Pano, along with 29 other players in the field, will be making their second appearances at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, with 52 players competing in the championship for the first time.
On Tuesday evening, many of these first timers had their first opportunity to witness Augusta National at the Chairman’s Dinner. Players arrived to the dinner, hosted by Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament Fred Ridley, following a trip down Magnolia Lane.
“I might even cry, I don’t even know,” Brianna Navarrosa said of the experience of arriving to Augusta National for the first time. “I’ve grown up watching all my heroes play, so to finally be here is such a dream come true.”
Said Paula Kirner, a freshman from the University of South Carolina, “I guess that’s one of the best parts of the tournament. I was really concentrating today on the round, but it was always the thought, ‘OK, tonight is going to be pretty cool. I’m really looking forward to it.’”