The anticipated return of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur features these highly touted prospects
Jennifer Kupcho (left) and Maria Fassi celebrates on the 18th green after Kupcho secured her victory in the 2019 ANWA.
Two years later, Paige Mackenzie still gets goose bumps talking about the back-nine duel between Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Kupcho trailed Fassi by two shots after nine holes in the final round at the home of the Masters, and then the NCAA champion from Wake Forest made a stirring charge. She carded an eagle at 13 and birdies on three of the last four holes to shoot 67 and claim the first trophy awarded to a woman on the grounds.
“What Jennifer and Maria did on that Saturday was as good as any back nine on a Sunday of the Masters in my opinion,” said Mackenzie, a former LPGA player who was part of the NBC broadcast team that week, and will return to her role for the second edition of the ANWA that begins Wednesday.
“Maybe I’m biased, but that was incredible. And then there was the display of sportsmanship [between the two leaders], which was next-level. That is how you want your sport to be represented. As an announcer, I was just trying to stay out of the way.
“When you see how special it was, it’s going to be hard to come close to that.”
The debut tournament was widely lauded as a success, both for the quality of the competition and the signal it sent to young women that they were being welcomed by a club and organization that hadn’t allowed a female member until 2012.
“The first thing that struck me was seeing ponytails walk up to the 12th green,” Mackenzie said. “Never in my life did I expect for that to happen.”
Unfortunately, the ANWA’s building momentum was halted by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic only a month before the second edition was set to be staged in the week before the 2020 Masters. The women’s event was canceled, along with the National Drive, Chip and Putt when golf schedules around the world were scrambled, and the men’s major was moved to November and played without spectators on-site at Augusta.
Mackenzie thinks that has made for an even more compelling ANWA field this year. Last year’s invitees carried over to this year if they remained amateurs, and there are now some fifth-year college seniors who might have already turned pro now with one more year of seasoning as they play alongside other top juniors and amateurs.
In handicapping the field, one big consideration has to be past experience in the ANWA. Of the 82 entrants, 30 played in the 2019 event, with 11 being among the 30 players who made the cut and competed at Augusta National on Saturday. (The first two rounds were contested at nearby Champions Retreat, as they will be this year, and everyone in the field got to play a practice round at Augusta National on Friday.)
“I think [experience] is huge,” Mackenzie said. “It’s multi-tiered. The nerves are part of it, but so many of these women are well-accomplished and have played in high-level international events before. I don’t think that’s as important as having made the cut [in 2019] and you’ve played Augusta National once or twice. It’s a golf course that isn’t very intuitive. A lot of times you go to a golf course with prevailing tendencies. But being on the property here, you realize just how important it is to have course knowledge.”
With that in mind, here are 12 compelling players to watch in the ANWA:
Rose Zhang plays her tee shot on the 12th hole the final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur.
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 1
2019 ANWA: T-17
Possessing poise that belies that she’s only 17, the Southern Californian, who has committed to Stanford, recently lost a playoff in a Symetra Tour event in Arizona, and last year she finished T-11 in an LPGA major, the ANA Inspiration. And those weren’t even the biggest accomplishments. Zhang won the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur and captured three top-level junior events.
2019 ANWA: Missed cut
The top player in college golf in 2021, Grant, 21, has won three straight events for Arizona State heading into the ANWA. The victories started piling up in 2020, when she won two pro events in her home country of Sweden.
2019 ANWA: DNP
A former World No. 1 amateur, the 20-year-old from France has seven wins and 20 top-10 finishes in the WAGR’s 104-week cycle. Playing for the University of South Carolina, she won The Ally in October by seven shots and holds the school’s 54-hole scoring record (202). Her most recent win this month should provide good vibes: it came in the Valspar Augusta Invitational at Forest Hills.
Beatrice Wallin prepares to play her second shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur at Champions Retreat.
2019 ANWA: T-7
The 21-year-old Florida State junior from Sweden returns as the top finisher from the ’19 ANWA. She shot a one-under-par 71 in the final round at Augusta National, and only three other players in the field scored better. Wallin has four top-10s during the college spring schedule, including two wins, and seized the Seminoles’ home team tournament by 13 shots.
2019 ANWA: DNP
Like Grant, Lindblad also captured two pro events in Sweden, and the 20-year-old sophomore at LSU won twice in her freshman season. She also tied for 30th in the U.S. Women’s Open in December.
2019 ANWA: 25th
Most impressive for the 21-year-old Swede, a sophomore at Oklahoma State, is that she finished T-13 in the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open. She also put together four consecutive top-10 finishes in Swedish pro events in the summer of 2020.
YU-CHIANG HOU AND YU-SANG HOU
2019 ANWA: MC/MC
The only sisters in the ANWA field, the women from Chinese Taipei attend the University of Arizona and both played six times on the LPGA of Taiwan tour in 2020. Yu-Chiang, 20, had a best finish among the pros of T-3, and she won twice on pro tours in 2019. Yu-Sang, 21, had her best finish of second in the 2020 Party Golfers Ladies’ Open in Taiwan, edging her sister.
Allisen Corpuz tees off on the first hole during the 2019 Augusta National Women's Amateur.
Kevin C. Cox
2019 ANWA: T-17
It’s already been a lengthy and storied amateur career for Corpuz, a Hawaii native who played in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links when she was just 10 years old. Now 23, she’s in her fifth year at USC and is coming off a strong summer. She reached the finals of the North & South, made match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and played in the U.S. Women’s Open.
2019 ANWA: 30th
Spitz has a bit to prove at Augusta National. She reached Saturday in the 2019 ANWA but shot 80—the only player in the field to score in the 80s. The 20-year-old who plays for UCLA has been impressive since then, winning four events in her native Austria and finishing T-4 in the European Ladies’ Amateur.
2019 ANWA: MC
Nobilio, of Italy, is a terror among her peers in Europe, winning four top-level amateur events in each of the last two years. The 19-year-old is a freshman at UCLA but has yet to play a college tournament.
2019 ANWA: MC
The 21-year-old out of Wake Forest has victories in the ACC Championship and Pan American Games, and in 2020 she played in both the ANA Inspiration and U.S. Women’s Open. Her pedigree is top notch. Migliaccio’s mother, Ulrika, played on the Swedish national golf team and was an All-American at the University of Arizona.