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Augusta National Women’s Amateur: What to watch for

Anna Davis, 16, 'just out there having fun,' wins Augusta National Women's Amateur in debut entry

For the fourth consecutive year, the top amateur women’s players from the world will descend on Augusta, Georgia, ahead the fourth installment in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

The ANWA has been a major showcase of the talent in women’s amateur golf and one of the most anticipated events during the golf season. This event has many returning players and many storylines, from 16-year olds eager to win to a deep international field and viral bucket hats to the best amateur player of the world.

Here are some we look forward too.

Can Anna Davis defend her title?

The girl with the bucket-hat is back, and she is ready for her defense Surprise winLast year, she was 16 years of age when she attended the event. In her news conference earlier this week, Davis acknowledged that although she is familiar with the tournament and the courses, it will be helpful this year. However, losing some of her naivety about the whole experience may be a challenge.

Davis stated that he didn’t know much history about Augusta National before last year. It’s different this year because the spotlight will be on me on the golf course. It might be a disadvantage, but it’s not something I can allow to get in my head.

Davis spoke to media last week from Champions Retreat, where she stayed and practiced prior to the tournament. It was a good timing. She was done with midterms her first year at Auburn. Now she is on spring break. This gives her the time to practice at the course, where her performance will be tested twice in order to advance to Augusta National.

Davis stated, “I think it’s been overlooked in the media how difficult this golf course is.” Davis added, “It’s mentally very difficult to play this course, knowing that your only goal is to get to Augusta on the last day. There isn’t a hole on this course you can lose your focus on.

Davis has gone from being a junior golfer, one of the youngest at last years tournament, to sounding like a seasoned veteran. She won the ANWA and became a viral sensation with her bucket hat. She hasn’t let it affect her performance. The eighth-ranked amateur golfer in world is just coming off a win from the Sage Valley Junior Invitational.

Davis stated that she considered turning pro after playing in LPGA events last year. However, she decided that it was not the right time and she wanted to continue her college experience.

Davis stated, “At the conclusion of the day, I decided that I needed more experience with different situations, you can know different types of pressure situations.” Davis stated, “I’ve never had that before where I have either to win or have to make a shot to win. Or I have to win again. This made me realize that I needed more experience on the amateur side. And, you know what? I have a life outside of golf.

Davis said she would have her bucket hat with her for the title defense this year, but it will be up to her mood whether she wears it. She will not be having pimento cheese sandwiches, regardless of her mood. Pimento cheese sandwiches.

Davis laughed, “I know pimento cheese’s a big deal,” Davis said. “But I can’t get over how gross this is.”

Rose Zhang is it the fourth time the charm?

Rose Zhang is all the rage — and rightfully so. The top amateur player in the world is in only her second year at Stanford, but at 19 years old, her résumé can already fill a small book.

Zhang won the U.S. Women’s Amateur title in 2020. Zhang won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2020, and the U.S. Girls Junior championship in 2021. Her individual achievements include winning the McCormick Medal, which is the top amateur in the entire world, three times, and the ANNIKA award, which is the top women’s amateur, twice. There are also a number of other Pac-12 honors.

She has also been a part of all four majors, including a T-11 finish in the Chevron Championship 2020. You get the point. Zhang is not only good, but she has won almost every amateur competition. Except for the ANWA.

Zhang has been at the tournament three times and finished tied for 17th., third, and 12th. Although she has done well, it is a testament to the depth and breadth of the field and the sport overall that Zhang has yet to win at this tournament.

Zhang has not yet indicated how many times she will be playing at this event. She chose to go back to school after her freshman year, and doesn’t seem to be in any rush to become a professional. It’s hard to imagine Zhang having a better shot than she is. Zhang has won six of her seven previous events. There’s no doubt she’s ready for the pro game, but adding a win at ANWA to her extensive résumé would be the fitting crown jewel on top of her dominant amateur career.

Ingrid Lindblad is also important to keep in mind

Zhang is the most prominent, but Zhang should not be overlooked. Ingrid Lindblad, a 23 year-old Swedish girl playing in Baton Rouge Louisiana, should also be highlighted. Ingrid Lindblad is the only person who has made more appearances at ANWA.

In 2021 Lindblad tied with Zhang, her Stanford teammate Rachel Heck, for third. This was one stroke behind the leaders. (Japan’s Tsubasa Kanitani went on to defeat Emilia Migliaccio during a playoff). The LSU senior finished tied for second in last year’s tournament after falling one stroke short of Davis.

Despite the loss, Lindblad seemed to feel energized for the remainder of the season. Lindblad won SEC championship title two weeks after ANWA and placed third in the NCAA championships. She then went to the U.S. Women’s Open in Pine Needles, where she remained at the top of a leaderboard that featured the best pros. She finished 11th and took home the tournament’s 18 hole amateur record. Along with a host new fans, she also managed to be affable on the podium.

Lindblad said, “I don’t think I ever realized how it happened,” a day following breaking the record at June’s U.S. Open. “I don’t think I realized how huge it is.” It’s almost like when you go to a big amateur tournament like Augusta last year, you realize how huge it is.

Lindblad’s performance has improved, and the attention has not stopped. The LSU Tiger has had seven top-10 finishes since being in the U.S. Open spotlight. She also won one. All of this led to her becoming No. She is now the No. 2 amateur in the World and one of the names to keep an eye on as she attempts to add the ANWA title to her amateur life.

International talent, domestic stars

Beyond Lindblad’s presence, the international field at Augusta this year features a stellar and diverse roster of players. More than half of the field, 41 out of 72, are from outside the United States. Ten players from Japan lead the charge, which is the highest number of players from any country in the event’s short history.

Japan’s Tsubasakajitani is back at ANWA after a year-long hiatus. The tournament was won by the then-17-year old in a playoff, despite not having won any matches in the past two years. Saki Baba, 17, is the Japanese star who just won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Chambers Bay. Baba defeated her opponent 11 to 9 in the final match, thanks to her aggressive approach play and the old-fashioned strategy that makes every putt.

Baba is a rising star and although she will likely be aiming for the professional game sooner than expected, a highly anticipated ANWA appearance by the teen from Tokyo could see Baba lift the trophy by Sunday.

The American side could place bets on any member of the winning 2022 Curtis Cup Team. All members of Zhang’s team were invited to the tournament. Zhang’s teammate Rachel Heck, who has a shoulder injury will not be able compete. However, standouts such as Amari Avery, a sophomore at USC (who was tied for fourth last season and is No. 9 in the World), Stanford freshman Megha Gaanne, Wake Forest’s Rachel Kuehn(No. 4 in the world), and the aforementioned Migliaccio.

This tournament has proven that the favorites don’t always win, and the underdogs have every chance to win. Kajitani (ranked 100th) and Davis (ranked 100th entering last year’s ANWA), there will be plenty of opportunities for anyone in the field to put together three great rounds of golf, and take home the trophy.