Why the Augusta National Women’s Amateur means so much more

Words by
Dan Davies
Why the Augusta National Women’s Amateur means so much more

The fifth Augusta National Women’s Amateur will see 72 of the best young female players in the world compete for a title that has quickly become one of the most prestigious in golf. Nearly one in three will use Clippd. We spoke to four of those players about playing Augusta, their hopes for this year and what the tournament means to them.

The goal of the Augusta National Women's Amateur is to inspire greater interest and participation in women's golf and create a new, exciting pathway for these players to realise their dreams. It has more than fulfilled its mission.

Speaking to the young women who have been the tournament's trailblazers during its formative years, it’s clear that the week represents something truly unique and special in the calendar, as well as in their lives and careers.

It has already produced great winners. In 2019, Jennifer Kupcho, who was the world's top-ranked amateur at the time, played her final six holes in five under par to become the inaugural champion. Three years later, she won her first women’s professional major.

The trophy all 72 players have their sights set on. All photographs courtesy of Augusta National

Two years later, after an enforced break for Covid, 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani began a banner year for Japanese golf by winning the title. A week later, Hideki Matsuyama claimed the Masters at Augusta. 

In 2022, 16-year-old Anna Davis became the youngest champion, before last year Rose Zhang underlined her credentials as No. 1 amateur in the world, and arguably the finest woman amateur in history, by defeating Jenny Bae in a two-hole playoff.

This year, 30 percent of the players teeing it up at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur will use Clippd, which is both a source of huge pride and a reflection of the impact our game-tracking technology has made in college golf, and women’s college golf in particular.

The green on 13, surrounded by the azaleas for which it's named.

We caught up with four of those players to learn about their experiences of the event and to find out how they are feeling ahead of this year’s renewal. 

Anna Morgan is a senior at Furman with seven individual collegiate titles to her name. This year will be her third and final appearance as she will be turning pro this summer.

South Africa’s Caitlyn Macnab and Sweden’s Andrea Lignell both play for the highly ranked Ole Miss women’s golf team. They appeared in the penultimate and final group out respectively at the 2023 Augusta National Women's Amateur. 

Lottie Woad of England and Florida State was joint medallist at this year’s ANNIKA Intercollegiate and is currently inside the top-10 of the National Collegiate Golf Rankings. She made the cut on her tournament debut in 2023.

Furman's Anna Morgan is playing in her third Augusta National Women's Amateur

What does playing in the Augusta National Women's Amateur mean to you?

Anna Morgan: It means a lot of different things. Just getting to play in the tournament is super exciting. There’s just so much excitement that surrounds the tournament for me. This will be my third year and I'm just as excited as I was the first year.

Caitlyn Macnab: It's extremely prestigious and it’s growing in strength. The fact that it's at Augusta, it’s just really an honour to be there.

Andrea Lignell: It’s probably the biggest event for a woman amateur golf, just because of the venue and the history. If I look back a few years on women's golf, it was definitely not at the same place as it is now. Growing up in this generation, it's really fun to be able to experience this and the fact women's golf is getting a lot better.

Sweden's Andrea Lignell played in the final group with Rose Zhang last year

What are the feelings when that envelope arrives containing your invitation to play in the Augusta National Women's Amateur?

Anna Morgan: The first year I received the invitation, I really didn't know it was coming. I knew I was a potential candidate to be able to play, but obviously there was no guarantee. This year, I knew I'd had a pretty good year and so I knew that it would be hard for me not to go. But still, until that invitation is in your hands, you don't really want to get too ahead of yourself. One of my favourite things to be able to do is to open that invitation,  just knowing that it came from Augusta, Georgia. You know exactly what that is and where it's coming from. It's hard not to have a smile on your face when you open that up.

England's Lottie Woad tees off on the 12th, arguably the most famous par-3 in golf

Lottie Woad: For my first ANWA, it was probably more exciting, just because I'd never been to the tournament before. I found out I was going to get into ANWA by winning the British Girls, so I knew quite a bit in advance. It's still pretty unreal when the invite came in the post. You open it up and you see that you are invited to Augusta National. It's pretty cool.

Caitlyn Macnab: I know exactly when they take the rankings from and I'm constantly checking them, just to make sure about making it in. But once you know that you're in and you get that invitation, it's extremely exciting.

Caitlyn Macnab drives off in the the final round last year

What can you tell us about your first experience of driving up Magnolia Lane and being on the grounds at Augusta National Golf Club?

Andrea Lignell: We went there for dinner before we actually played the course. We were all in a van and I was sitting there like a little kid, just looking out the window, taking it all in. It’s definitely a very special moment. 

"It's such a pretty clubhouse... All the history there is just insane"

Anna Morgan: I don't even know how to describe it. To get the opportunity to ride down Magnolia Lane, which I have done a couple of times, it gives me chills. It's just so surreal. You're just looking all around and it just doesn't feel real. It didn't feel real the first time it happened and I'm sure it won't feel real again.

Lottie Woad: You go into the clubhouse for dinner and you're just looking out onto the course, seeing all the holes in front of you.

Andrea Lignell: It's such a pretty clubhouse. I played ANWA last year and we got to walk around the clubhouse with a few members. It's absolutely amazing. All the history there is just insane.

Caitlyn Macnab:  It's absolutely beautiful inside. We have a dinner and then a lunch after the final round with our families, who get to experience it too. I love that you aren't allowed to have your cell phone so you’re just taking in every moment, which really emphasises how special it is to be there. It's every kid's dream to experience it. Then to play a tournament on top of that is really something special.

"I love that you aren't allowed to have your cell phone so you’re just taking in every moment"

Anna Morgan: You go into the week just feeling grateful to be there. We want to enjoy all the different opportunities that we get. There’s dinner at Augusta for all the players where you get to learn a little bit more about the history of the course and the club and everybody involved. That is just super cool. They also do another dinner where we get to take a guest of our choice. Last year I took a teammate and it was such an incredible experience for me, but I know it was also just an incredible experience for her. The tournament impacts the players that get to play, but I think it's also impacting so many other people that are getting to have super cool experiences as well. There are just so many different little things throughout the week, whether it's little gifts or different people that I've gotten to meet. It's just such a cool week.

What have you learned about the Augusta National course and the unique challenges it presents?

Anna Morgan: The course itself is very familiar. I grew up watching the Masters, so I felt like I kind of knew a lot about the layout. But then you get there and play it for the first time and it's also so unfamiliar. There are so many different nuances on the greens. Your caddie will tell you it's going left and you're like, ‘I think it's going right’ and the caddie is right 12 times out of 10. There's a lot more slope around the course as well, which I don't think you can really see on TV.

Lottie Woad: I didn't realise how hilly it is. It’s very undulating. You hit into a lot of raised greens, which you don't really see as much on TV. The doglegs are also a lot sharper than I thought. Playing 13, I thought it was just a little dogleg right to left, but it was 90 degrees! Overall, it's a lot more tree-lined than I thought. You actually need to be pretty straight off the tee there to be in good positions.

The avenue from the tee on 'Azalea', the dogleg par-5 13th

Andrea Lignell: Some tee shots are really, really narrow. They don't look that narrow on TV but when you're standing on the tee box, it's quite a challenge.

Caitlyn Macnab: I feel like it was a lot more open on some tee shots than what I imagined. For the most part, there was a lot more space and room off the tee. And then the greens are just crazy. You don’t realise it until you’re there and you actually experience it and play. It's another level.

Anna Morgan: You have to play great golf to win the tournament because you're playing two such different courses. You have to hit every shot in the book. At Augusta, I think it's just so important to learn where to miss it off the greens and how to play it smart because there are plenty of birdies out there.

How hard is it to keep our nerves in check when you step onto the first tee at Augusta National?

Caitlyn Macnab: It's extremely challenging. Personally, I've never really played in front of crowds like that before. You're at the practice facility and then you head to the tee. You don't really notice that many people coming in but then you get to the tee box and the whole fairway is lined. It’s overwhelming. You just have to go back to your training and all your prep leading up to that. That's what you have to rely on at the end of the day.

Andrea Lignell: Playing in the last group last year [with Rose Zhang] was a great experience. You sometimes don’t get crowds that big on the LPGA. It’s just something completely new. For me, it was just really important to stick to my routines, slow down a bit, take it all in and not stress too much.

Andrea Lignell hits her opening drive in the final round last year

Lottie Woad: I guess at every event there are going to be nerves because you want to do well. But I'd say I was probably more nervous in the second round last year. I didn't have a very good first round so I knew I needed a good second round in order to make the cut to play at Augusta National. I ended up having to birdie my last hole at Champions Retreat to make the cut. I had a five footer and I was trembling. That was probably my most nervous moment of the week. I actually felt pretty comfortable when I made it to Augusta National. I was just seeing how much I could move up the leaderboard. I knew I couldn't finish any lower because I made it in on the number, so I didn't really feel that much pressure.

What does the ANWA mean to the women’s game and in the wider landscape of golf?

Anna Morgan: The tournament is still in the early stages, but so much growth has already happened and will continue to happen. I remember the last couple of years, all the little kids, specifically little girls, out there watching. I had girls come up and ask for my autograph that probably couldn't have been much older than five or six. To see them that excited about the game, about the tournament, it’s really giving women's golf a stage to showcase all the awesome golfers that are there. I think the Augusta National Women's Amateur Tournament has done such an awesome job just putting it out there and giving us a chance to play for ourselves and also to play for all the younger girls. It gives them an opportunity to see that they can be out there just like we can.

"I had girls come up and ask for my autograph that probably couldn't have been much older than five or six"

Andrea Lignell: I think it's really huge for women's sports and women's golf in general. The crowds that you get there are insane. So many people want to come and watch. For girls growing up playing golf, it's important to have a really big goal to strive for in your life. When a few of my friends, like Linn Grant and Maya Stark, played in it, they were like my role models. It definitely inspired me and made me want to get better to play in the event.

Lottie Woad: I think it's made a huge impact. I watched the first ANWA and hoped I'd get the chance to play in it. Just being able to see the best women amateurs in the world play on the biggest stage, it can only mean positive things. The amount of people that came to watch was way more than I was expecting, especially young girls. Hopefully we will inspire them.

"For girls growing up playing golf, it's important to have a really big goal to strive for in your life"

Anna Morgan: With all the history that surrounds Augusta National, there's an added level of spotlight on the tournament. The attention that the tournament gets is a huge deal. College golf, for both men and women, is really growing, especially on the women's side. But the Augusta National Tournament definitely brings more attention than most women's tournaments out there. So, it's bringing a lot of attention to the game.

Caitlyn Macnab: The fact that there's a women's amateur event there before a ladies professional is huge. It just shows the growth of the game. I think we are all super optimistic of the future and the direction that women's golf is heading in.

What are your goals for ANWA this year?

Lottie Woad: We played the final day in pretty challenging conditions last year. It was pretty windy, so the scores weren't low from anyone, so I feel like everyone will go lower depending on the weather this year. I played Amen Corner in two under, which was pretty cool. I would definitely say I do have a lower score in me now that I know the course. Knowing the greens a lot better will definitely help.

Anna Morgan: It will be my last year playing because I will have turned professional sometime between then and April of next year. Knowing it's going to be my last time, I just again want to enjoy the week and whatever it brings. That being said, I'm super competitive. I would be the first to admit I go into every tournament wanting to win. I'd be a liar if I said I didn't.

Lottie Woad: Last year, I shot five over in the first round, so I was probably nine or 10 off the lead. Realistically, I was out of contention so it was more about seeing how high I could finish. But this year I'm definitely looking to just put myself in good positions and see if I can win.

Andrea Lignell: Last year, my only goal was to make the cut, so this year I might set the bar a tad higher. Obviously it would be amazing to play in one of the last few groups for sure, just to get the experience of teeing off late in front of the big crowd.

Caitlyn Macnab: If I'm there, I’m there to win it. Obviously, the first goal is to make the cut, then be in one of the last groups and then try to compete for that trophy. It would be super cool if we were in the last group together. That's my dream!

All photographs courtesy of Augusta National. For more on the Augusta National Women's Amateur, see Head to @clippdgolf to watch our series of Augusta National Women's Amateur Instagram reels featuring Anna, Andrea, Caitlyn and Lottie