AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | “Fore please, Anna Redding now driving.”
Half of that announcement is as familiar to golf fans as a favorite wedge. Anyone who has watched the Masters has heard everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods introduced in this way, no fanfare, no list of accomplishments, no hometowns or “playing out of…” utterances. Simple and classy. “It’s like a club match,” Lee Westwood said of the way Augusta National introduces competitors.
But the second part, a player named Anna … that was truly a first. And that is exactly how Saturday’s final round began at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Surrounded by thousands of people, Redding, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Virginia, stepped up to her ball with a bright-eyed smile and got the final round of the inaugural 54-hole championship, and the only round played at Augusta National, underway.
In her midst were four World Golf Hall of Famers who had struck ceremonial opening tee shots earlier – Se Ri Pak, Lorena Ochoa, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sörenstam – along with two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, former Augusta National chairman Billy Payne and current chairman Fred Ridley, looking on closely.
“It was a bit crazy,” she said. “It was nerve-wracking.
“I think (Bubba) said ‘good job.’ I don’t know, sorry, I’m a little all over the place. This is amazing,” she said with an excited laugh.
Redding didn’t hit the first fairway. Her hands were shaking so much she was happy to make contact. She found the left rough and then she admitted to whiffing her next shot, leading to an opening double bogey.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Since I knew the invitations were coming out and I had it in my hands, I’ve been so excited for this day. This has exceeded my expectations by miles. Again, there are so many people out here to support women’s golf, and that’s so special.” As Redding spoke, the tears welled.
“I think that’s what women’s golf should look like every Sunday in the last group.” – Maria Fassi
It was more than just a tournament for these women.
Redding made one birdie in her round, at No. 2, and added three bogeys over her final 12 holes to post a 76. She finished tied for 26th out of 30 who made the 36-hole cut. The highlight of her day came at 17 when she hit her approach shot into a greenside bunker but got up-and-down for par.
The winner and runner-up, Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi, played in the final pairing before large crowds in an atmosphere that seemed soothing for them.
“I think I was a lot more calm than I expected to be,” said Kupcho, who clinched the title with a spectacular back nine. Both Kupcho and Fassi earned LPGA Tour cards for this season but chose to defer until early June so they could finish school, Kupcho at Wake Forest and Fassi at the University of Arkansas. And while both had other reasons to remain amateurs, playing in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur was certainly a great bonus.
“Obviously there was a lot of fans (on the first tee) and it was incredible to have all that support,” Kupcho said. “I think that really helped calm the nerves just a little bit because I knew everyone was supporting us, and it was going to be a big statement for what was going to happen the rest of the day.”
Throngs of patrons filled the seats and lined the fairways on Saturday. Most of the adults had never heard of Anna Redding. Many of the young girls, who made up a disproportionate amount of the gallery, want to become Anna Redding or Jennifer Kupcho or Maria Fassi.
“Just to know that we’re the pioneers for this stage in women’s golf is incredibly special,” Redding said. “And we talked a lot about the hashtag, #littlegirlsbigdreams with the LPGA. This is incredibly special. Just to see that young girls and young women, we can make it and we can do amazing things out there. Just to be the first is amazing.”
“I think that’s what women’s golf should look like every Sunday in the last group,” Fassi said. “It’s the player’s responsibility to be like that and I know that’s the way I want to be for the rest of my life. If I have that opportunity again, it would be the exact same. If we get to see that more, then we get more viewers. That is only gonna make the game grow. That’s only gonna help.”
With two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson (right) watching, Anna Redding gets the final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur underway. Photo: Courtesy Augusta National
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