The Augusta National women’s champ learned something special

Lottie Woad is your 2024 Augusta National Women's Amateur champion.

Lottie Woad is your 2024 Augusta National Women's Amateur champion.

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When Lottie Woad’s birdie try at the majestic par-3 16th slipped past the edge of the hole, it felt like her chances of winning the Augusta National Women’s Amateur slipped with it.

Bailey Shoemaker was already comfy in the clubhouse, after all, at 7 under par. She’d just finished off a tournament-record 6-under 66 — the first bogey-free round in ANWA final-round history — to charge into the lead. And although Woad, the 20-year-old sophomore from Florida State, had begun the day with a two-shot lead, her round had stalled. A bogey at the par-5 13th officially transformed her from hunted to hunter, from chased to chaser.

No worries, Woad told herself. Think big picture. How good was this?

“If I’d been told before this week that I’d be two back with four to play, I would have been like, ‘yeah, perfect, that sounds great,’ she said. “To be in the mix on the back nine at Augusta is something that everyone dreams about. So I was trying to really embrace it.”

She made a crucial par save at the par-4 14th to kick things off. She had to lay up at the par-5 15th, but hit her approach to 15 feet and made birdie to get to 6 under. And she hit the perfect tee shot at No. 16, hitting a high draw that settled some 12 feet below the hole, setting up a lead-tying birdie putt.

But when that putt missed, the runway was suddenly short. Only the par-4 17th and 18th remained. She’d need at least one birdie to force a playoff.

With Shoemaker hitting balls on the driving range, prepping for the potential of extra holes, Woad striped a tee shot down the left-center fairway. She dialed up the perfect club from 105 yards, leaving herself less than 15 feet for birdie. And then she dripped in a left-to-right putt, delivering a subtle fist pump before the ball had even reached the cup.

Augusta’s 18th tee shot is famously testing but here, too, she split the fairway with driver. And as she played up towards the clubhouse and into the biggest gallery of the day, crowding ’round the 18th green, Woad took dead aim. She stared intently as her ball landed just left of the hole and settled some 15 feet past.

“I was honestly thinking about making birdie rather than par for the playoff,” Woad said. The front left pin beckoned, she said, particularly with a backstop behind.

The thought of not three-putting crossed her mind. That would be unfortunate. But she replaced that with better, more active thoughts. She made her stroke. The birdie putt swooped left, then back right, and then directly into the center.

“It was a bit of a double-breaker,” she said. “And luckily it broke back right at the end.”

For Woad, who’s from Farnham, England, the victory changes everything. She knew she could compete here — she entered the week as the No. 4-ranked amateur in the world and last year, in her debut performance at the ANWA, she finished 13th — but this is Augusta. There’s nothing quite like it.

“It’s pretty cool,” she said in her post-round press conference, trying to process in real-time. “I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. I finished my round not that long ago, so I’m still kind of getting back in the moment here.

“Yeah, it’s just really cool to be standing in the same place as the Masters champions have stood and just following in their footsteps a little bit.”

That’s the beauty of this event being played on the most famous stage in golf; we have context for the shots these women execute under pressure down the stretch. We can appreciate their specifics. From the practice area, Shoemaker said she appreciated the level she brought out of her competitor.

“Good for her,” she said, disappointed but impressed. “Especially under pressure, knowing she had to do it, that’s amazing. That’s awesome. I think super clutch.”

And for Woad, who grew up watching the Masters, it gave her context for what she’d just accomplished, too. The best, most certain answer of her winner’s press conference came when she was asked what she’d learned about herself.

“That I’m never out of it,” she said with certainty. “When it was tough out there, I hung in there. That’s going to give me a lot of confidence.”

The bogey at 13 tested that confidence. It tested her ability to accept the bad. She passed that test.

“Mistakes are bound to happen around this course,” she said. “It just wasn’t a good time for me to make one, but I did, and it happens. I just stayed relatively calm and knew that I could get some back.”

What a thrilling realization to have about yourself. That you’re never out of it. That you’re at your best when things get tough. That you can come back.

It must feel even better knowing that you just did.

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