Heartbreak, high wind, harsh penalty on Augusta National cut line

lottie woad hits an approach shot during the 2024 augusta national women's amateur

Whipping winds made for brutal second-round conditions at Champions Retreat.

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EVANS, Ga. — Rachel Heck plucked her ball out of the cup on Champions Retreat’s 18th green and gave a faint wave to the crowd. She pulled her cap low over her face to hide the tears welling in her eyes.

It was only 1:05 p.m. local time, but she knew what the preceding three-putt meant for her chances of making the weekend. Moments later, she emerged from the scoring area with tears streaming down her face.

On cut day at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, every emotion is magnified.

“It’s not the way you want to see it end,” Heck said. “[It] got super windy out there and I just didn’t play super well in that … Tough to see it end like that.”

The winds whipped throughout the day in northeast Georgia, which made for brutal conditions at Champions Retreat — just ask Heck. On Wednesday, 28 players broke par; just five did so Thursday. And in a round with such high stakes, tension swirled on that wind.

Every missed putt was met with a groan and every flagged iron with a cheer. Each shot could be the difference between teeing it up Saturday at Augusta National and having to watch your peers from outside the ropes. Heck felt that pain when she realized she’d missed the cut by a shot, but hers was far from the only heartbreaking tale.

Meja Örtengren, a Stanford commit, began the day teetering on the cut line after an opening-round 74. She played her first 17 holes of Round 2 in one over par, and needed just a 5 on the par-5 9th to make the cut. The Swede played the hole in one too many, and spent the hour after signing her card seated on a curb outside the clubhouse, staring dejectedly straight ahead as her fellow competitors came off the course.

Meja Örtengren sits on a curb after her second round at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Zephyr Melton

Her playing partner Helen Briem experienced a similar misery. She came to the last needing just a bogey to make the ANWA cut for the first time in her career. But after a double bogey 7, she stood behind the 18th green receiving condolences rather than congrats from her support system.

“Obviously it’s tough,” she said, her voice trailing off as she choked back tears. “I had lot of trouble with the wind. I felt like every [club] decision was the wrong one. It was just very hard to adjust to all of that.”

Need another example of the brutal conditions in Round 2? Look no further than Ashley Menne. Her first-round 69 was among the best of the day, and left her just three shots back of the lead heading into the second round. After 18 holes of battling Mother Nature on Thursday, though, she’s among those on the wrong side of the bubble at day’s end. Her second-round 79 was tied for fifth highest on the day, and means she’ll miss the cut for the second-straight year.

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“Definitely not my round today,” she said. “The wind definitely got to me. The course played very differently than it did yesterday. Things like that can happen in golf. Yesterday I shot 69 and today I shot 79 — I’m just glad I broke 80.”

Anna Davis, the lone former champion in the field, couldn’t muster a single birdie playing in the mid-afternoon winds, but after walking off the 18th green, it looked as though she’d survived the cut on the number. Long after her playing partners emerged from the scoring area, though, Davis remained. When she eventually did exit, her eyes were red and puffy from crying. A short time later, the Rules Committee sent a blast out to the media.

“Anna Davis was assessed a one-stroke penalty for violation of the Tournament’s Pace of Play Policy,” the statement said. “Davis received her first bad time after playing her second stroke on hole No. 5 and received her second bad time following her second stroke on hole No. 17. She was subsequently assessed a one-stroke penalty, which was applied on hole No. 17.”

The penalty pushed Davis’ score to four over. For the second year in a row, the 2022 champ missed the cut because of the penalty strokes added to her card.

After meeting with the tournament rules committee, Davis walked out with her father, Bill, who had his arm around her shoulder. She declined to speak with the assembled media.

That’s not to say that every story had a sour ending on Thursday. Carla Bernat Escuder, the last player included in the field, entered the day six over for the tournament after a sloppy 78 in Round 1. But after a four-birdie, one-bogey performance — the round of the day by two strokes — she earned herself a Saturday tee time on the grandest stage on golf.

“I can’t believe it,” Bernat Escuder said. “I just — I’m really proud of myself.”

She’ll enter the final round eight strokes back of the pace set by leader Lottie Woad. But if Saturday at Augusta National plays out anything like Round 2 at Champions Retreat, no lead will be safe.

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