Four years ago, Maria Fassi’s life changed forever.
Then a 21-year-old senior at the University of Arkansas, Fassi played her way into the final pairing of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She and Wake Forest University senior Jennifer Kupcho, already familiar college-golf rivals, put on a dramatic show for a rapt television audience, with Kupcho ultimately claiming the title by four shots over Fassi.
But Fassi stole the show in other ways. With her long bombs of the tee, copper mirror Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses and collegial demeanor with Kupcho, she was an obvious star on the rise, and helped cement the ANWA as a grand showcase for women’s golf that it is today. The event has blossomed in the years since, growing from three hours of final-round network coverage in 2019 to live coverage windows on all three tournament days this year.
And Kupcho and Fassi have bloomed, too. Both turned pro soon after their ANWA duel and are currently competing on the LPGA Tour. Kupcho won her first major last year, the 2022 Chevron Championship, and is ranked 20th in the world. Fassi has posted two top-15 finishes in her last four tournaments and is currently ranked 88th.
I caught up with Fassi at last week’s LPGA Drive On Championship in Arizona to ask her what that 2019 week in Augusta meant for her career.
“It changed everything,” said Fassi, inbetween shots on the 10th hole of her Tuesday practice round at Superstition Mountain Golf Club. “I’ve got two sponsors that came significantly from that, and honestly other sponsors too, just from people that worked for those companies that were there and witnessed what Jennifer and I were able to do. Golf-wise, I think it was such a great booster for confidence for me then, and all the players who are doing it now.”
It’s hard to overstate the value of the exposure Fassi enjoyed during her star-making final round with Kupcho. Fassi’s current sponsors include AT&T, TaylorMade and RSM. In 2020, she became the first LPGA player to be signed by AT&T, joining Jordan Spieth on the men’s side.
“There are people who will come to tournaments like, ‘I remember you,'” Fassi continued. “That was so cool. I think I got like 60,000 followers on Instagram for it, so thank you.
“It was such a great moment for me. It didn’t go my way, but I think it ended up going my way in many other different directions. It was just awesome. I’m excited to watch it this year and see what the girls do.”
The final round of the 2023 ANWA airs at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBC. Who will become the next Kupcho and Fassi? Tune in to find out.