Anna Davis’ ANWA win shows that at Augusta National, some things never change
AUGUSTA, Ga. — How did Augusta National come to find itself the heartbeat of the golf world? The short answer, it appears, is thanks to days like Saturday.
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur has seen only three iterations in the four years since its inception, but three iterations are more than enough to know definitively that a women’s tournament at Alister Mackenzie’s famed design was several decades overdue.
On Saturday, the tee boxes were just about the only difference between the tournament that resulted in 16-year-old Anna Davis’ victory and the tournament that will end in the same exact place in a little more than eight days’ time. Everything else at Augusta National was, well, like it always is.
As with every final round at Augusta National, there was drama. Drama provided by a bucket-hatted teenager named Anna Davis. Davis, who is a high school sophomore, fearlessly charged through Augusta National en route to a final-round 69. At the time, it seemed 69 would be too little. On the 54th hole, Davis’ birdie try missed, and she thought her tournament chances went with it.
“Anything can happen, but I felt like I needed to make that to have a pretty good chance at winning,” Davis said. “I was hoping it would drop, for sure.”
But the real drama was only beginning. Minutes after Davis cleared from the 18th green, Augusta National’s scoreboard operators showed the leader, Latanna Stone, had made double on the usually tame 17th. Suddenly, Davis was tied for the lead. The crowd surrounding the 18th green gasped as the leaderboard flipped.
“There’s gonna be a playoff!” One patron yelled.
But there was no playoff. Instead, as there is all too often at Augusta National, there was heartbreak. That belonged to Stone, the LSU Junior whose brilliant day exploded in the tournament’s dying seconds. In two holes, Stone went from leading the tournament by two strokes to missing a playoff by one.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” Stone said afterward. “I was trying to be aggressive and just kind of lost it. I was coming in at 3-under, and it’s just kinda heartbreaking to go double and then bogey on the last two holes.”
Stone walked her way to the clubhouse in stunned silence, just as Davis was ushered out of it in much the same state.
“I’m still a little shocked,” Davis said. “I literally … I’m speechless. I can’t even fathom what just happened.”
It might take a while for the gravity of the moment to hit the 16-year-old. Davis, the third-ever winner at the ANWA, admitted she’s never watched the Masters (though, she says, that is likely to change this week). Her only “vivid” memory of the course is watching Tiger Woods tap-in his final putt in 2019.
Whenever reality does set in for Davis, it’s not likely to shake her. It doesn’t seem very much does.
“I didn’t really feel the nerves,” she said. “I was more nervous watching [Stone] than playing my round out there.”
As it always does, Augusta National found a champion. Anna Davis might have been a surprising victor, but she was not an undeserving one. The course has long rewarded those who don’t blink, and though it might have been difficult to spot under the brim of her hat, Davis never did.
“I think I’ve always felt a little bit older than 16,” Davis said. “I think golf helps you mature when you’re traveling so much and playing all these tournaments. And that’s, I don’t know, a good thing.”
I don’t really feel the nerves.
Maturity comes quickly at Augusta National. For those who already have it, like Davis, that can be hard to see. For those who are forced to earn it, like Latanna Stone, the lessons can be cruel.
Not all of them, though. On Saturday, as Davis walked toward Butler Cabin to accept her hardware, Stone walked through the maze following the 18th green in a fit of tears. A sizeable audience followed the winner toward the trophy presentation, but an even larger one followed the loser. As Stone walked toward the clubhouse, the gallery erupted into its most earnest ovation of the afternoon.
As with every final round at Augusta National, there was a loser … and a crowd determined to celebrate her anyway.
“Really overwhelming, I wasn’t really expecting that and that really kinda brought me to tears,” Stone said. “I’ve never experienced quite a large crowd like that and have them support me. I’m going to cherish that forever. It made me feel a lot better.”
At the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the characters are new, but the story sure isn’t.