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Pressure gets the better of Kate Smith, but dream trip to Augusta National awaits

EVANS, Ga. – More than 13 hours after she first arrived at Champions Retreat on Thursday, Kate Smith stood close to the clubhouse and tried to assess her present psychological state.

Asked her stage of fatigue, she chuckled: “I’m at a 10.”

“Normally the golf wouldn’t wear me out,” she stated, “but just morning until night of pressure and cameras was a lot for me.”

A day earlier, Smith, a fifth-year senior at Nebraska who was one of the final gamers into the discipline right here at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, had set a blazing tempo in her opening spherical, going 4 underneath for her first 11 holes. She was going through a 7-footer for par when the horn blew as a result of of inclement climate in the space. When a major storm blew by, soaking the fairways, first-round play was known as for the day and Smith was the headliner, three photographs clear of this star-studded discipline.

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And in order that afternoon, in entrance of TV cameras for the first time, Smith gleefully instructed her story: About how she’s a graphic design main presently working two internships. How she obtained the e-mail from Augusta National final fall, letting her know she was into account for an invite as one of the prime 30 Americans. How the Minnesota native educated deep into the winter, wanting to begin sharp. How a latest angle adjustment – believing she might win right here, not simply make the lower – had already began seeping into her sport, main to her breakthrough faculty victory two weeks in the past.

“I got a lot of nice attention for 12 holes of golf,” she stated.

By the time she left the course, Smith’s telephone was flooded with messages. She was shouted out by TV personalities on social media. With a marathon day on faucet for Thursday, she tried to go to sleep at 9 p.m. … and as a substitute stared at the ceiling previous midnight.

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“I just laid there,” she stated. “I just thought about my opportunities for the next day.”

What she couldn’t have anticipated was an excellent meaner Champions Retreat. Already arrange as one of the most demanding layouts the girls will face all yr, Smith was greeted in the morning by 45-degree temperatures and a gentle 20-mph wind out of a wholly totally different course.

Restarting at 7:45 a.m., Smith holed that remaining putt for par, but it was a wrestle to the clubhouse. Back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14 value her the outright lead. A double on 16 gave her – in any case that – an even-par 72 and left her two photographs off the official first-round lead. 

“I mean, a round of golf is 18 holes for a reason,” she stated afterward.

The inside stress was already constructing. “Yesterday I had nothing to lose, and today I had everything to lose,” she stated. “It happens. Playing in the lead is always a good learning experience.”

Smith had a couple of hours to kill between rounds, so she known as Nebraska coach Lisa Johnson and went over her sport plan. She felt assured, prepared to rebound. But the bogeys stored coming – on Nos. 2 and 4, then 6 and seven. Suddenly, she was not in title competition – she was battling simply to make the lower for the prime 30.

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“It’s kinda helpless, right?” she stated. “So it was hard, yes. But it was harder knowing that my heart rate was out of control and I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do on the course. I hit cut 8-irons every single day, all the time, and they just wouldn’t cut. I was nervous. My heart rate was up. And I was a little fast over the ball.”

A double on the 10th gap put her only a lone shot inside the lower line. She steadied herself sufficient to make six consecutive pars, but then she three-putted the seventeenth inexperienced to shoot 79 and drop right into a 5-for-1 playoff.

On the first further gap, Smith piped a drive down the center, but as soon as once more her strategy wouldn’t lower. After lacking her 25-footer, she and the different playoff individuals might solely watch as Oklahoma State’s Maja Stark buried her 20-footer to advance.

Though solely 30 gamers will compete in the third and closing spherical Saturday at Augusta National, every of the 81 opponents get to tee it up Friday in a follow spherical at the dwelling of the Masters. Smith isn’t dwelling on what might have been. She’s wanting ahead to soaking all of it in, hitting photographs she’s solely imagined – after which rooting for the leaders the subsequent day, from outdoors the ropes.

“I think it’ll be a lot more fun now,” she stated. “I’ve heard some members talk about Augusta and how it’s playing right now, and I was already trying to mentally prepare for that while being here, 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.

“But I’m excited. I’m excited to enjoy the week and watch some good golf and cheer on the girls. We’ve got to lift each other up, or it’s not worth it.”

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