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The ANWA is helping women's amateur golf have a moment

2019 Augusta National Women's Amateur

Charles Laberge

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Five years might not seem that long, but it has proven enough time to meaningfully change the landscape of women’s amateur golf.

That was always the potential for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur when the event was launched in 2019. Established by the same club that runs the Masters—with the final round played on the iconic course that holds the men’s major—the event had the institutional firepower for quick success. Augusta National’s name alone offered the ability to capture the imagination of those aspiring to play the sport, not to mention attract the attention of golf fans both rabid and causal.

From the start, the ANWA’s mission was simple yet ambitious. “This championship will become an exciting edition to the Masters week,” Augusta chairman Fred Ridley said upon announcing the creation, “and it furthers our effort to promote the sport and inspire young women to take up the game.”

It's hard to deny that the championship has done just that and more. Rachel Kuehn didn’t walk away with the title on Saturday when the fifth edition of the event concluded, finishing nine shots back of the winner, England’s Lottie Woad. But the 22-year-old from Asheville, N.C., embodies the tournament’s impact on the sport.

“I know when they first announced it, I was nowhere near [good enough to get] into the event,” said Kuehn, speaking of a time before she became an All-American at Wake Forest and twice claimed the winning point for the United States in the Curtis Cup. “So, it was a goal, and it motivated me and made me work harder and made me want to be better, and I think that's only going to continue to be true for future generations.”

Kuehn shot a final-round 70 to finish T-10 in her fourth and final ANWA appearance. She’ll remain an amateur through the summer in hopes of playing for the U.S. in a third Curtis Cup before turning professional and going to LPGA Q School in the fall. The reality of that transition started to sink in on the 18th hole at Augusta Saturday, Kuehn appreciating this was the end of an era for her.

“It's been a ride,” Kuehn said. “I've been so appreciative of this event.”

2024 Augusta National Women's Amateur

Rachel Kuehn used the ANWA as motivation to improve in the women's amateur ranks.

David Paul Morris

Similarly, Ingrid Lindblad was playing in her fourth and final ANWA. The 24-year-old from Sweden is the No. 1 amateur in the world, and her third-place finish this year was the third top-three of her career. Her appreciation for the event goes beyond anything personal. When asked to put the event in perspective, she didn’t hesitate to note the platform it has given women’s golf.

“We don't get a lot of coverage on TV, and then they put an event here, and everyone knows Augusta National,” Lindblad said. “So I guess everyone wants to watch it, and you can even see today it doesn't matter if it's men or women playing here. People want to get in here [as patrons], and they want to watch good golf.”

Kuehn took this a step further. “I think people are now talking about women's amateur golf like you hear them talk about men's professional golf," she said. "You hear them talking about the girls going around Amen Corner, and I think because we're getting to play the same golf course that the guys do, I think it kind of puts it all in the same conversation.”

2024 Augusta National Women's Amateur

Ingrid Lindblad signs autographs after round one of the 2024 Augusta National Women's Amateur.

Shanna Lockwood

Beyond this tournament, Kuehn points to the success of Rose Zhang, who captured the ANWA title in 2023 to cap the most impressive women’s amateur career in the modern era. That success quickly carried over when Zhang won in her professional debut on the LPGA Tour. Kuehn likens it to a “Caitlin Clark” type impact for golf.

Speaking of Clark, women’s sports in general is having a moment. And women’s golf is in position to benefit from that as well.

“There’s always been so much talent in every sport. And especially golf, too,” said USC standout Amari Avery, another ANWA veteran. “We have so many players that are so good that nobody knows. And tournaments like these obvious helps. We’re have the notoriety and people now know who we are.”

"All these people here, there are thousands and thousands, and I think they are able to see how good the women's game is," said Emilia Migliaccio, the only player to compete in all five ANWAs. "If you want to get more girls in golf, you have to show them the best women and you have to show them on TV and put them on courses like Augusta National and then they want to play golf and dream of making a putt to win on 18."

That's precisely what Woad did to become the 2024 champion, birdieing 17 as well as 18 for a closing 69 that topped Bailey Shoemaker by one shot. Woad wasn’t somebody that many golf fans likely would have recognized at the start of the week. Nevermind that the 20-year-old was the fourth-ranked women’s amateur in the world, a former British Girls’ Amateur champion and an All-American at Florida State. But patience and perseverance secured her the title, and her performance was showcased on live TV around the world. Woad now gets into four of the LPGA’s five majors in 2024, giving her a chance to build off this week’s success and increase her name recognition.

2024 Augusta National Women's Amateur

Lottie Woad celebrates making a birdie putt on the No. 18 green to win the Augusta National Women's Amateur.

Chloe Knott

Asked about her perception of the ANWA, Woad professed: “It’s definitely inspired me to work harder and continue trying to enjoy the game and get better.”

Without the event, Woad might still have developed into the same impressive player fans saw on Saturday. It’s just that golf fans might have taken longer to see it. It’s hard, then, not to think this event in just five years, helped raise her game—and the sport overall.