Augusta National once again supplies tale of heartbreak

bailey shoemaker waves to the crowd during the 2024 anwa

Bailey Shoemaker looked destined to become the latest ANWA winner. Instead, she became the latest tale of heartbreak.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Those who compete at Augusta National are as famous for their heartbreaks as they are for their triumphs.

There was Roberto DeVicenzo’s famous incorrect scorecard debacle in 1968. Scott Hoch’s missed two-footer in 1989. Greg Norman’s final-round meltdown in 1996. Rory McIlroy’s back-nine implosion in 2011. Jordan Spieth’s Amen Corner adventure in 2016.

While the setting of Augusta National — with towering pines and radiant azaleas — might be serene, these grounds have an appetite for heartbreak. After the final round of the 2024 Augusta National Women’s Amateur, you can add Bailey Shoemaker’s name among those who’ve had their hearts ripped out at Dr. Alister MacKenzie’s masterpiece.

Unlike some of Augusta National’s other victims, her heartbreak was not self-inflicted. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t pain. And after the wait she endured, it might’ve made it even worse.

Bailey Shoemaker joined an unfortunate list Saturday at Augusta National. Getty Images

Bailey Shoemaker isn’t exactly patient.

When she was in the latter stages of her junior career, all she could think about was when she could turn pro. She eventually opted to go to the University of Southern California, but she swore she’d be a one-and-done. She likes to play fast when she’s on the course. When she knows a putt is going in, she walks after it into the hole.

“[When] it’s rolling in, why not?” she said. “Get to the hole sooner.”

That breakneck mentality played right into her hands Saturday. When Shoemaker and her playing partner Eila Galitsky reached the fifth hole, a rules official informed them they were out of position and on the clock. That was no problem for Shoemaker. The faster the pace, the better.

“I think it helped me get the ball rolling,” Shoemaker said. “Just get up and hit it. Just good momentum all day today, just really helpful.”

After her group was put on the clock, Shoemaker shifted into another gear. She birdied the 5th and then made another at the 7th. She added circles to her card on the 11th, 13th and 16th, and by the time she reached the 18th green, she was alone in the lead. A treacherous two-putt from the back of the green later, she walked off the course with the lowest final round in ANWA history — a bogey-free 66.

“I just had to putt well today and get it started early,” she said. “I knew if I could keep it going and give myself opportunities all day, I’d have a chance.”

As Shoemaker made her way to the clubhouse to sign her scorecard, 36-hole leader Lottie Woad’s score flashed up on the mechanical scoreboard over the 18th green. She’d bogeyed the par-5 13th to drop to five under. With Shoemaker’s 66 getting her to seven under, she was the leader in the clubhouse by two strokes.

All that was left to do was be patient and wait.

Bailey Shoemaker looked destined to hoist the ANWA crown after her final-round 66. Courtesy Augusta National

As the final group walked off the 13th green, Shoemaker emerged from the scoring area to a wealth of congratulations from friends, teammates, coaches and fans. Underneath Augusta National’s famed oak tree, she interviewed with the Golf Channel. An Augusta National official pulled her to the side and asked if the club could get her any swag from the merchandise building. A handful of media members stood by and studied her every move, filling their notebooks with as much color as they could on the presumed champion-to-be.

Officials ushered Shoemaker over to a green platform in the flash interview area and made her available to the press. Someone asked what it would mean to win such a prestigious event.

“It would just mean the world,” she said. “It’s such an opportunity to inspire somebody and have people watch you and maybe make somebody play golf or make somebody just be like, ‘Heck, maybe I can do that.’ Just really exciting overall.”

When she descended from the platform, she mingled with fans and signed autographs for young fans clutching yellow ANWA flags.

“We need to go the range to stay loose,” Shoemaker’s father said. “But I can’t pull her away from that.”

Eventually, Shoemaker and her team did make their way to the range. She grabbed a bag of balls and hit a few wedges and even more drivers. Golf Channel had a camera crew trained on her at all times. Forty or so fans watched from the stands behind the practice area. At the end of the range, two-time Masters winner José María Olazábal hit a bag of balls of his own.

Bailey Shoemaker was nearly flawless during her final-round 66 at Augusta National. Getty Images

On the other side of the property, Lottie Woad was making her charge. She saved par after hitting a tree with her tee shot at the 14th, and birdied the 15th to close the gap to one. She missed a crucial birdie putt at the 16th, but the miss didn’t seem to faze her. She striped her tee shot down the middle at the 17th, leaving a wedge in her hands to attack the tricky green.

Shoemaker and the others on the range existed in a state of ignorant bliss. There are no phones allowed at Augusta National, and the mechanical scoreboard next to the practice facility was blank. The famous Augusta National roars did not carry all the way up the hill and over the clubhouse, leaving those near the practice tee unaware of the events unfolding on the course.

Finally, Shoemaker got curious and walked over to a small white building between the range and the putting green. Shortly thereafter, USC head golf coach Justin Silverstein emerged.

“It’s tied,” he said. “Woad just birdied the 17th.”

If Woad could manage par at the 18th, she and Shoemaker would head back down the hill for a sudden-death playoff. But Woad made sure it wasn’t needed. She split the fairway with her drive at the finisher, and then flagged her approach, her ball settling 15 feet beyond the hole. Moments later, she calmly trickled in the birdie putt to take the title outright. Three birdies in the last four holes for a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

“I was hoping it was going to be like a nice stress-free day, but it was far from that,” Woad said. “In the end, it’s a cooler way to finish.”

it was Lottie Woad — not Bailey Shoemaker — who accepted the trophy at day’s end. Getty Images

While it was an epic finish for Woad, it was heartbreak for Shoemaker. An hour earlier she had one hand on the trophy, and a playoff seemed to be the very worst outcome. But as happens so often at Augusta National, the storybook ending wasn’t quite so neat.

After word reached the range that Woad had taken the crown outright, Shoemaker made the lonely walk back to the oak tree. As she readied for her interview with the Golf Channel, she stared blankly ahead.

“I’m obviously disappointed, but at the end of the day, I played about as good as I could have,” Shoemaker said. “It is what it is.”

Shoemaker said all the right things as the media peppered her with questions: It was a great learning experience. It was a special week. I made the most of it.

But it’s hard not to wonder what could’ve been.

Shoemaker’s heartbreak may not be quite as painful as some of the others who have endured the same fate, but chances to win at Augusta National don’t come around often. For many of those who’ve watched their dreams disappear here, the next chance at glory never came.

“I hope I come back in a year,” Shoemaker said. “I hope to come back.”

The wait for the next opportunity will test her patience most of all.

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