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Maja Stark’s playoff birdie sends her to Augusta National

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Kate Smith supposed to go to mattress at 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening. It took for much longer than that to drift off.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she stated. “Normally you can look at the TV or phone as distraction; I just laid there. I just thought about my opportunities for the next day, those six holes a lot.”

Smith, a fifth-year senior on the University of Nebraska, was at 4 below and had a three-shot lead when the primary spherical of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur was suspended due to climate. She had solely performed 11 holes.

When Smith returned on Thursday morning to end, the temperature had dipped beneath 50 levels. She performed her remaining seven holes in 4 over. Shortly after lunch, she was again on the primary tee for her second spherical and slowly slipped down the leaderboard. When Smith three-putted the 17th inexperienced, it moved the 36-hole reduce from 6 over to 7 over.

Smith landed in a playoff with 4 different ladies – Maja Stark, Lauren Hartlage, Amari Avery and Yu-Sang Hou – that ended rapidly when Stark dropped an 18-footer for birdie on the No. 10, the primary further gap.

Augusta National Women’s Amateur: Leaderboard

Like the remainder of the 81-player area, Smith has a practice-round tee time at Augusta National on Friday even when she received’t be one of many 30 ladies competing on Saturday. Friday’s spherical would possibly even be somewhat extra fulfilling now.

“I was already trying to mentally prepare for that while being here,” Smith stated of a wandering thoughts the place the ultimate spherical at Augusta National was involved, “and I don’t think I was in the present all the time. It’s a long week and you’ve got to keep your head down and focus on what’s in front of you.”

Smith owned the beginning of the day, however Stark was squarely within the highlight 12 hours later when she drained the birdie putt that despatched her to Augusta National. It couldn’t have been higher timed. The Oklahoma State sophomore solely made three birdies previously two days: One got here on the 36th gap to assist her get within the playoff and one other was on the additional gap.

Interestingly, Stark had bogeyed No. 10 in regulation each days.

For a couple of quick minutes—and with recollections of an 11-for-10 playoff within the inaugural ANWA had been nonetheless recent—it seemed like further holes could be averted on Thursday.

Kiira Riihijarvi is the one NCAA Division II participant within the area this week. The fifth-year senior on the University of Tampa made tidy work of the cutline when she rolled in a birdie putt on No. 18 within the fifth-to-last group. That moved her from 7 over to 6 over and introduced the reduce with her.

Smith’s late bogey gave the opposite 4 gamers at 7 over second hope.

“I tried not to look at the leaderboard while I was playing,” Riihijarvi stated of coming down the ultimate holes. “They made it difficult because they’re really big.”

Regardless of what the leaderboard stated, a quantity turned increasingly troublesome to pin down as wind swirled all day and made the closing stretch significantly troublesome.

Augusta National Women's Amateur

Augusta National Women’s Amateur

The second spherical of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Thursday, April 1, 2021. (Photo: ANWA)

Ana Pelaez Trivino, a fifth-year senior at South Carolina, felt that as a lot as anybody. She fired a 1-under 71 and went to mattress Wednesday with a share of second place. She performed the entrance 9 in 2 below on Thursday however was 5 over on the again. At 6 over, she snuck in to the third spherical on the quantity.

Pelaez Trivino stated the large numbers on the again – three bogeys and a double – weren’t even a product of focusing an excessive amount of on the reduce as a result of she wasn’t focusing there in any respect. Mental recreation is a bonus for the firey Spaniard.

“I can look at the scoreboard and not feel pressure at all, just know what I have to do,” she stated. “It’s a fact that I’m going to have to accept that knowledge at the end of the day, so why not look at the scoreboard or whatever?”

Erica Shepherd performed the final three holes in 2 over to land at 6 over, which ultimately left her safely contained in the reduce. It was the same state of affairs to the one which performed out in 2019, when Shepherd additionally narrowly averted the playoff.

“Kind of had the same feeling heading down the last hole,” she stated. “I guess that experience from being there two years ago may have helped me a little bit.”

Shepherd, who completed T-23 after a final-round 75 at Augusta National in 2019, bogeyed No. 18 on Wednesday, and solely after laying up on the par 5 realized she may have reached the inexperienced with her 3-wood. She missed a downhill slider for par however bogey was nonetheless sufficient.

Having made the reduce right here as soon as, Shepherd was further motivated to safe one other Saturday tee time.

“Just to see in person how it’s actually better than it is on TV and just being part of that experience and to see how much that did for women’s golf and just to have been there,” she stated, “just kind of that pressure that I put on myself to get back, it’s kind of a relief to know that that’s secured now.”


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