As Rose Zhang dominates the ANWA, the real drama unfolds around the cut line

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat were on full display Thursday at the Augusta National Women's Amateur.

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EVANS, Ga. — The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat were on full display Thursday at Champions Retreat Golf Club — and there was no better place to witness this theater than just behind the 18th green.

Faces told the stories as players walked off the course. Stanford’s Rose Zhang may lead by a dozen — OK, technically five, but it feels like more — but it wasn’t that smooth for everyone. Don’t let Zhang’s 66-65 start fool you. While some girls beamed with grins, tears welled in the eyes of others. This was cut day at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, and every emotion is magnified.

On one end of spectrum, there was heartbreak. With only the top 30 players (and ties) qualifying for the final round of competition at Augusta National, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity hung in the balance. Play well enough and you’d earn a Saturday tee time at the most revered course in the country. One misstep, though, and that chance could disappear.

Carolina Lopez-Chacarra knows this truth all too well. After firing a first-round 73, the Spaniard arrived at Champions Retreat Thursday morning teetering on the cut line. A three-over start through four holes dropped her to four over, but she battled back with four birdies against just two bogeys to get to the two-over cut line number with one hole to play. All that stood between Lopez-Chacarra and a Saturday matinee at Augusta National was 500 yards of lush Bermuda.

The Wake Forest sophomore played the hole to perfection. She took three strokes to reach the green and lagged her birdie putt within the leather. But in tournament golf, there are no gimmes. Her par putt caught the lip of the cup and spun out.

When she emerged from the scoring area, Lopez-Chacarra’s eyes filled with tears. She sat on the ground and wept. Her parents did their best to support her, but she was inconsolable. There would be no date with Augusta National, at least not one in which the score matters. (All competitors get to play a practice round on Friday.)

rose zhang
Rose Zhang jumps into pole position at Augusta National Women’s Amateur
By: Sean Zak

Justice Bosio met a similar fate. The Australian also came to the final hole needing only a par to make the cut. And, like Lopez-Chacarra, she played the hole beautifully — right to the final putt. But when her six-foot par try curled past the hole, Bosio’s dream vanished. She could hardly muster a smile as she took the long walk to the scoring area.

But for every story of heartbreak, there is also one of triumph. While tears streamed down the faces of some, others rejoiced.

Emilia Migliaccio found herself on the wrong side of the cut line with three holes to play, but a trio of birdies coming home slipped her inside it. As she floated through the post-round media scrums, she shared a hug with fellow competitor (and friend) Amari Avery.

“How did you do?”

“I birdied the last three to make it!

“I birdied my last two!”

The duo cheered and jumped and squealed in glee as the euphoria washed over them. Their weeks are not quite finished. But if they have any hopes of lifting the trophy come Saturday evening, they have their work cut out for them.

While the juxtaposition of either end of the emotional spectrum defined those near the cut line, the mood at the top of the leaderboard was refreshingly even-keeled. With Zhang pacing the field, it’s easy to see why. She leads at 13 under, five clear of Andrea Lignell and six ahead of Jenny Bae. The two players tied for 4th? They are 10 off the lead.

Just two years ago, Zhang, the No. 1-ranked amateur, was in a smiliar position. She led the field through much of the tournament — but a disastrous back-nine triple bogey eventually derailed her chances. By her own admission, the moment got the better of her — but don’t expect her to make that same mistake twice.

“From my past experience it’s just very important to understand that you have a whole field kind of chasing you, and anything can happen,” Zhang said. “Every hole, every score matters.”

So far this week, those scores have been quite good. Zhang’s 66 and 65 are both tournament records and she has carded just one bogey over 36 holes. Still, she refuses to look too far ahead.

“The job’s not done yet,” she said. “We still have to go out there and play a good round.”

Just 18 holes separate Zhang from earning the one title she still hasn’t claimed. But if history is any indication, anything can happen at Augusta National.

Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at