Following practice rounds in the Augusta National Women's Amateur on Friday, once players got beyond the shock factor of actually playing Augusta National, the realities of competing on the famed course started to set in. The biggest takeaway from those who played their practice round there? Local caddies make a difference—enough so that it might be time to replace dad.
Multiple players have had parents on the bag during the first two rounds of the event played at Champions Retreat Golf Club. Among those players is tournament leader and world No. 1 amateur Jennifer Kupcho. After playing her practice round with a local caddie at Augusta National on Friday, Kupcho decided to shift to the experienced caddie for the final round of the event Saturday. Kupcho noticed the biggest difference on the greens.
"And just all the putts, I would read it one way and he's like, 'No, it's definitely going the other way.' (I) hit the putt, he's right. Just stuff like that, you've got to lean on a caddie for that," explained Kupcho, who is a senior at Wake Forest University.
Sierra Brooks, currently two shots behind Kupcho in a three-way tie for third, is contemplating the same issue. Like Kupcho, she's had her dad on the bag for the first two rounds, but was caught off guard by some of the reads her local caddie, Larry, gave her during the practice round.
"Some of the breaks that broke the opposite direction, and the speed. He said 'This one's lightning,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, we'll see what lightning really is,' and it went off the green," explained Brooks, a junior at the University of Florida. "Definitely learned a lot with him on the bag. It was surprising."
Though the advantages of having a local caddie are obvious, choosing whether or not to move a parent off the bag isn't easy. There's a certain level of comfort and confidence that comes with having someone who you're close to caddie for you.
"My dad knows me better than anyone else and I'm comfortable with him on the bag, but Larry, my caddie, you know, it's just like we talked about before, there's so many shots out there, especially around the greens, that you can't just see. So that experience on this golf course would help. We'll see," said Brooks. "That's a tough decision I'm still trying to decide on. I really do want him on the bag, especially for this event and the last round here."
Having to choose between dad and a local caddie is a difficult, emotional decision to make on the eve of the final round of a tournament. But ultimately, it's a good problem. Because regardless of which choice each woman makes, they'll be among 30 amateur women competing at Augusta National on Saturday.