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For ANWA first-timers and returners, the chance to play Augusta National still feels untouchable

To put together for her first journey to Augusta National, Kenzie Wright has been chipping off of Alabama’s apply placing inexperienced to get a really feel for tight lies.

“Mic (Potter) probably won’t be too happy to hear this,” mentioned Wright, a fifth-year senior, of the Tide’s head coach.

Apologies to Potter, however there’s a whatever-it-takes perspective when it comes to Augusta National. Whether it’s securing tickets to the Masters or getting ready your sport for a bucket-list occasion.

After final yr’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staying newbie for an additional yr and enjoying a super-senior season at Alabama was a no brainer for Wright. The 23-year-old stayed on in Tuscaloosa, the place on May 1 she’ll graduate with a Master’s diploma in sport hospitality. The Texan plans to attend LPGA Q-School later this yr.

But first, she’ll join 82 other amateurs March 31-April 3 for the much-anticipated second version of the ANWA. Wright, who can be one 54 first-timers at the occasion, mentioned Masters week all the time felt like a vacation for her household. In highschool, she’d sneak a peek at event protection on her cellphone throughout class.

The chance to play the iconic course still feels considerably untouchable.

The excellent news is that regardless of how Wright performs, she’s assured to tee it up at Augusta National. The area can be reduce to the high 30 gamers after 36 holes at close by Champions Retreat Golf Club. On Friday, all 85 gamers will the play a apply spherical at Augusta National. The remaining spherical can be broadcast dwell on NBC.

In 2019, Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi placed on an unforgettable present in entrance of packed crowds. Kupcho performed her remaining six holes in 5 beneath, posting a 5-under 67 at Augusta to win the inaugural occasion. Two days later, each Kupcho and Fassi have been on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

It was an immediate basic.

Linn Grant was in the gallery that Saturday, watching a few associates compete after she missed the reduce.

“I want to get some revenge,” she mentioned of Champions Retreat.

So a lot has occurred since Grant final competed in Augusta. Last December, for instance, she was in the remaining group at the U.S. Women’s Open on Saturday alongside fellow newbie Kaitlyn Papp. Grant’s inspiring run got here unraveled when she carded a quadruple-bogey eight on the tenth gap.

“Inside I was fuming, just furious,” she mentioned. “But then I also know that there and then, the anger inside of me won’t help me to score better.”

Right now, Grant mentioned, every thing about her sport feels prefer it’s going her method. The Arizona State sophomore, presently No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, received the inaugural Sun Devil Winter Classic in February, the Bruin Wave Invitational in early March and the Clover Cup 11 days later.

“I just have a mental flow,” mentioned Grant, “and feel very positive about what I’m doing.”

Linn Grant, Arizona State

Linn Grant, Arizona State

Linn Grant, Arizona State (Arizona State Athletics)

Rose Zhang returns to Augusta as the undisputed favourite. The No. 1-ranked newbie loved a spectacular 2020 season during which she received the U.S. Women’s Amateur in addition to three AJGA invitationals and completed eleventh at the ANA Inspiration, an LPGA main.

Zhang had the chance to return to the ANA this yr (held the similar week as ANWA) however as a substitute selected to come again to Augusta, the place she tied for seventeenth in 2019. The 17-year-old Stanford commit suffered a left wrist harm final summer season that resulted from hitting balls in her storage throughout the pandemic lockdown. After making the reduce at the U.S. Women’s Open final December, Zhang took a month off from golf to give her wrist extra time to heal.

“It was just uncomfortable,” mentioned Zhang, who famous that further breaks is perhaps so as.

Two weeks earlier than the ANWA, Zhang nearly won a Symetra Tour event. She misplaced to Ruixin Liu on the second playoff gap at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Classic.

Rose Zhang

Rose Zhang

Rose Zhang strains up her tee shot on the seventh gap throughout the second spherical of the 2020 ANA Inspiration Mission Hills Golf Club. (Photo: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Ashley Gilliam heads to Augusta National for a 3rd time after twice competing in the Drive, Chip and Putt finals (2014 and 2015). The Mississippi State sophomore was out practising at Old Waverly when she acquired a notification on her cellphone {that a} package deal had been delivered. After an extended 30-minute journey again to her residence, Gilliam received her mother and father and older sister on FaceTime in order that they may watch her open the official invitation.

Her mother and father pulled up footage from her Drive, Chip and Putt invites to maintain all of them aspect by aspect. Gilliam’s father, Marshall, who performed baseball at Tennessee Tech, will caddie for Ashley the first two rounds. She plans to get an area caddie for Augusta National.

In 2014, it was Gilliam’s mom, Jennifer, who caddied for her at Drive, Chip and Putt. Jennifer performed faculty golf at Ole Miss and launched her daughters to the sport.

Ashley Gilliam Augusta National Women's Amateur

Ashley Gilliam Augusta National Women’s Amateur

Ashley Gilliam, proper, and her mom Jennifer. (Photo submitted)

“I can’t remember what age I finally beat her,” mentioned Ashley, whose older sister Savannah is a senior at Middle Tennessee State.

Wright mentioned her father, J.W., a automotive salesman in McKinney, doesn’t typically present his feelings, however he can’t maintain again when the topic of his daughter enjoying Augusta comes up.

“He’s already excited just to go shopping,” she mentioned.

Ashley Gilliam Augusta National Women's Amateur

Ashley Gilliam Augusta National Women’s Amateur

Ashley Gilliam together with her Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals invitation (left) and her Augusta National Women’s Amateur invitation (proper). (Photos courtesy Gilliam household, Mississippi State Athletics)

Before the pandemic, Wright mentioned just one designated visitor was allowed to watch the apply spherical at Augusta. But now that fewer whole visitor tickets can be found to gamers, all three designated friends can stroll the apply spherical on Friday. Wright mentioned her boyfriend, Brayden Conover, a golf author who’s taking the week off from his job, will get the third badge.

“It was a big fight between my mom and dad over who was going to be the designated guest before,” mentioned Wright, with amusing.

Now everybody will get to expertise the stroll of a lifetime. Maybe much more than as soon as.


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