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Despite expected troubles at Champions Retreat, Clarisse Louis still finds a smile

EVANS, Ga. – Clarisse Louis noticed this reporter ready exterior the scoring space and winced.

“Oh, no,” she groaned. “Why?

Louis had simply shot the worst rating of anybody within the area right here at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, a gap 16-over 88 that left her with nearly no probability of constructing the top-30 minimize and advancing to the third and closing spherical Saturday at Augusta National.

And but, all through our interview, she spoke thoughtfully. She smiled. She even laughed at instances.  

“It was really tough – I just wasn’t in it, from even the first hole,” she mentioned. “I was so stressed and paralyzed. But I hope tomorrow is going to be better. I’m having fun. That’s the least I can do at the moment.”

Augusta National Women’s Amateur: Full-field scores | Full coverage

In a area stuffed with U.S. school stars and adorned juniors, Louis is an outlier. Whereas most gamers equipped for this premier occasion whereas competing in top-tier school tournaments, or practising at a state-of-the-art facility, Louis, who lives in Brussels, has needed to make do in less-than-ideal circumstances.

This is her first event in six months, since she tied for 77th at the European Ladies Amateur Championship final September. Women’s beginner occasions are onerous to come back by usually in Europe, and so they’re much more scarce in these COVID instances.

Practice time has been restricted, too. Courses in Belgium had been closed final spring due to the virus. Louis tried to remain sharp by hitting balls into a internet in her yard, however she went three months with out seeing a ball in full flight. Even when the programs reopened final May, golfers – even the highest amateurs within the nation – had been capped at one hour of apply time per day. Gearing up for this event, Louis braved a snowstorm and tried to log 15 hours of apply time a week, one hour at a time, hopping on the tram from one course a half-hour away to a different 45 minutes down the highway.

“It’s another world,” she mentioned. “It makes it more difficult than a lot of these girls.”

It’s price declaring right here that Louis wasn’t a particular invitee; she certified to be among the many 82 opponents at Champions Retreat. She’s a extremely completed participant, as soon as reaching the quarterfinals of the Girls’ British Amateur and tying for third in a skilled occasion. She received 4 occasions in 2018 after which added six extra top-10 finishes in 2019, peaking at No. 46 within the World Amateur Golf Ranking and incomes her an invite to the inaugural ANWA. Though she missed the minimize in 2019, she felt as if she belonged. That she was one in every of them. She would have certified once more final yr, however the occasion was canceled. Still, due to her lofty world rating at the time, she was exempt into this yr’s version. 

“I’m one of the players who shouldn’t be invited if it was this year only, so I don’t know …” she mentioned, her voice tailing off. She at present sits at No. 186 on this planet, based mostly each on inactivity and poor play. “I felt like, OK, I’ve got to do my best, but my best maybe isn’t going to be good enough.”

Having performed Champions Retreat earlier than (she missed the 36-hole minimize in 2019 after rounds of 79-75), she knew what to anticipate. So in her restricted time on the vary mats, she labored to hit the ball greater, eager to cease the ball as rapidly as doable. But there isn’t any course in Europe that would adequately put together her for the problem on and round these greens, that are slick, grainy and undulating.

“It’s impossible to practice that at home,” she mentioned, which is a part of the explanation why she carded 12 bogeys, a double and a triple with only one birdie in her opening spherical. “That’s just the kind of life we live in Europe.

“I felt like, OK, let’s see what’s going to happen. I’m not as prepared as I would hope, but let’s go. Let’s go do this. Let’s go see what comes. And unfortunately, it didn’t come out the right way.”

Of course, there are worse locations to have a blowup event. All week gamers are handled like royalty, with glamorous dinners within the Augusta National clubhouse and Berckmans Place, and Louis is extra snug in these settings having befriended a few of the French gamers, together with one of many event favorites, Pauline Roussin-Bouchard. Everyone within the area – even those that miss the minimize – play a apply spherical Friday at Augusta National. Two years in the past, Louis took a photograph of practically each shot she hit within the apply spherical. When she flipped via her digicam roll a few months later, she might solely snort.

“Like, what am I going to do with this?” she mentioned.

Now, her aggressive possibilities all however over, she desires to set new objectives at Augusta: to beat her practice-round rating of 75 … and to smile extra.

“It’s still amazing and I’m so lucky, and I’m going to enjoy it anyway,” she mentioned. “That’s why I play golf – to have a smile on my face. I’m going to enjoy tonight and see what tomorrow is bringing.”

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