The azaleas are blooming, and that can only mean one thing — the Masters is right around the corner. But first, Augusta National will host some of the best women’s amateur golfers in the world.
For the fourth time, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur will showcase the stars of tomorrow at the most famous course in America. Last year featured a sensational final round from the girl in the bucket hat, Anna Davis, and if this year can match that excitement, we’ll have a heck of a week in store.
Here are five burning questions ahead of the ANWA.
Can Anna Davis repeat?
By now, golf fans are familiar with the name Anna Davis. One year ago, that wasn’t the case.
Davis arrived at Augusta National without much national profile. She was a solid junior golfer from California, but few expected her to contend — let alone win. But with a final-round 69, the girl with the bucket hat took the title and became a viral sensation.
Heading to Augusta this year, things are quite different for the 17-year-old. She’s no longer flying under the radar, and she’s among the favorites to take the title against one of the strongest fields in amateur golf. Davis’ game is in fine form with a win in her last start at Sage Valley two weeks ago, but there has yet to be a repeat winner at the ANWA. Can Davis become the first?
Will Rose Zhang redeem herself?
There isn’t much Rose Zhang has yet to accomplish in the amateur game. She’s won the U.S. Girls Junior and the U.S. Amateur. She helped Stanford to the NCAA title last year, nabbing the individual title in the process. And she’s won the McCormack Medal three years in a row. The only thing missing from her resume is a win at Augusta.
“It would be absolutely amazing,” Zhang told GOLF.com last year, when asked about the prospect of winning at Augusta. “This event is just so special with the venue. Just playing in [the ANWA] is part of history, but to have your name on the trophy would just be even more amazing.”
Two years ago, Zhang came tantalizingly close to earning that title, but a final-round 75 — including a triple at 13 — left her one stroke out of a playoff. Will this be the year she conquers those demons?
Is it Ingrid Lindblad’s time?
Zhang is generating plenty of hype heading to Augusta (and for good reason), but don’t sleep on Ingrid Lindblad. The No. 2-ranked amateur in the world is plenty impressive in her own right, with 31 top-15 finishes in 34 starts for LSU — not to mention her past success at Augusta.
Each of the past two years, the Swede has finished one shot out of a playoff at the ANWA. Last year was particularly painful as she finished with a bogey on 18 to finish one stroke behind Davis’ total. If a couple things went differently the past two years, we might be talking about the chance at a three-peat. Will this be the year Lindblad finally breaks through?
Will another junior take the title?
The inaugural ANWA featured an epic back-nine duel between two seasoned college stars in Jeniffer Kupcho and Maria Fassi, but the last two iterations have been quite the opposite. Instead of college stars taking the crown, we’ve had two consecutive junior winners.
Tsubasa Kajitani got the trend started in 2021 with her playoff victory over Emilia Migliaccio, as Davis followed suit in 2022. There’s plenty of collegiate talent in this event, but don’t forget about the juniors. They have plenty of talent as well. Can they continue the trend?
How will the international stars fare?
Two of the three ANWA winners thus far have been homegrown stars, but that doesn’t mean the talent pool is lacking internationally. More than half the field (41 of 72 players) hails from outside the U.S., with 10 players representing Japan.
Among the Japanese players to keep an eye on are 2021 champ Tsubasa Kajitani, 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ Saki Baba, and No. 5-ranked amateur Rin Yoshida.
Outside the Japanese delegation, there are plenty of other international players to watch, such as Ingrid Lindblad (Sweden), Minsol Kim (South Korea), Hannah Darling (Scotland) and Cayetana Fernandez Garcia-Poggio (Spain).
The Americans might have a 2-1 advantage in winners so far in this young event, but with a strong crop of international talent, the scoreboard may well be tied come Saturday evening.