Editor’s Note: This story was written by Emilia Migliaccio, a regular GGPWomen contributor and Wake Forest golfer who has now competed in all four editions of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. In the 2021 ANWA, Migliaccio finished runner-up to Japan’s Tsubasa Kajitani.
Tomorrow morning, Indiana University assistant women’s golf coach Kendall Griffin will finally step onto the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.
What was once a seemingly far-fetched dream has become an unexpected reality.
Even after the formation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur was announced in April of 2018, Griffin didn’t believe she would ever play in the event. Griffin was a junior at LSU when she watched the inaugural ANWA in 2019, an iconic duel between Maria Fassi of Arkansas and Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest. On the 18th hole at Augusta National, Kupcho drained a 25-footer to shoot 10 under for the 54-hole event, winning by four shots.
“I thought it was really cool, but I didn’t see it as attainable for me. It was for the best golfers,” Griffin said.
And Griffin didn’t feel like she was in that category. For starters, she did not grow up with a traditional golf background.
“I have three siblings, all older than me. Two brothers and a sister and we all did different things,” Griffin said. “My parents don’t golf, so I didn’t get into the sport until later.”
Griffin grew up in Sebring, Florida, and spent her days playing softball before picking up a golf club later than most standout juniors. She vividly remembers the tournament that propelled her competitiveness in golf. “I was 9 years old and played in a nine-hole tournament,” Griffin recalls. “I shot 43 and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to win this. I’m so good.’ Well, this little 7-year-old comes in and shoots 36.”
Who was this little 7-year-old girl you might ask? None other than Latanna Stone, last year’s ANWA runner-up and a future teammate of Griffin’s at LSU. The girls quickly became friends as kids and the Stone family helped the Griffins navigate the junior golf circuit.
“Since junior golf I always wanted to play professionally, but then during my second semester freshman year, I grew my love and curiosity for coaching.” – Kendall Griffin
“As a family that was not a golfing family, we had a lot of other families like the Stones that came alongside us and helped us through it,” Griffin said. “I think that is what’s so great about golf. There are so many good people. Without them, I wouldn’t have got to the place I was able to get to because we didn’t know anything.”
A simple act of generosity prompted Griffin to pursue a college career at LSU where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing. During her four years playing for the Bayou Bengals from 2017-21, Griffin was a four-time All-American Scholar and recorded five top-10 finishes, including a tie for fifth in the 2021 SEC Women’s Golf Championship. She then played a fifth year at the University of Louisville where she received a master’s degree in sports administration. She registered four top-five finishes for the Cardinals, including a tie for third in the 2022 ACC Women’s Golf Championship.
Griffin described her last few years in college as the “peak” of her amateur career. In the background, the next two years of the ANWA came and went, remaining a distant dream.
That dream turned into a possible reality for Griffin when one career decision would change her golfing prospects. Even before her college golf career ended, Griffin pursued becoming a college coach.
“Since junior golf I always wanted to play professionally, but then during my second semester freshman year, I grew my love and curiosity for coaching,” Griffin said. “So when I graduated, I put my name out there and told myself if the Lord provides an opportunity that I cannot pass up, then I’m going to take it.”
With the help of Louisville coaches Courtney Trimble and Whitney Young, Griffin found herself on the phone with Brian May, Indiana University’s head women’s golf coach.
“I had a tournament during the time, and my visit to Indiana was all I could think about,” Griffin said. “I ended up calling him and said, ‘Look, I’m super passionate about working with you and working at Indiana and what we can do there.’ A couple days later after my tournament finished he texted me and asked if we could chat. He told me, ‘When I picture the vision for Indiana women’s golf, I see you in it and I’d love for you to work with me.’ ”
On June 29, 2022, Griffin officially became the assistant women’s golf coach for the Hoosiers.
“After college you don’t get that team feeling anymore and the best way to do that is to be a coach,” Griffin said. “I had two great experiences and I want to be a part of impacting girls at a really important time in their lives. A lot of my close friends have not had good experiences (in college golf) and that is not OK with me. Having a good experience myself, and suffering with my friends who have not, helped push me more toward coaching. I absolutely love college sports and the passion behind it and I didn’t want to leave that.”
Griffin, just 24 years old, chose a career that uses her knowledge and experience in golf to push other young women to be the best version of themselves.
“I like to remind the girls (at Indiana) that the most important conversations they will ever have on this earth are the conversations they will have with themselves,” Griffin said. “They will keep the habits they are forming now for the rest of their lives.”
Not only do Griffin’s wise words impact her players, but so do her golf accomplishments — specifically regarding a particular event that occurs the week before the Masters.
Remember the lofty dream Griffin had back in 2019?
“I never look at WAGR (World Amateur Golf Rankings), but then I started looking (in 2022) and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I could get into ANWA next year. But I’m not going to get my hopes up.’”
In order to qualify into the ANWA, players have to rank as one of the 30 best Americans or 30 best international players. The rest of the field is determined by other tournament exemptions and special invitations.
Griffin had accumulated a lot of WAGR points in 2022, having finished runner-up to Ingrid Lindblad in the Moon Golf Invitational and then nearly winning the ACC Women’s Golf Championship. During the summer, she reached match play in the North & South Women’s Amateur and the Florida Women’s Amateur. It was enough to reach the top-30 American threshold.
On Jan. 12, 2023, Griffin’s dream was right in front of her.
The Masters green invitation was secured behind a gold stamp with the ANWA emblem. Griffin opened the invitation to read a personal note from Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley inviting her to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“I had never seen an (ANWA) invitation in person,” Griffin said. “I would only see everyone else posting with it on social media.”
Now it was Griffin’s turn to share her personal accomplishment with the world.
“All my (Indiana) girls were asking about ANWA and were like, ‘Oh my gosh, you have to bring the invitation to the office.’ ” Griffin said. “So it’s there and they love looking at it. It’s so sweet. A couple of them made goals to play (the ANWA) next year. The support here at Indiana has been fantastic. The athletic director mentioned me getting to qualify, Brian is so supportive and the girls are super pumped.”
Not only did Griffin accomplish something she never fully saw as attainable, but she can use her own coaching platform to inspire her players at Indiana to strive for their ANWA dream.
“I still can’t believe it,” Griffin said. “I don’t think I’m going to until I show up. I’m excited to see it as a reward and one last hurrah. It will be a great end cap.”
How will Griffin celebrate following the completion of ANWA on Saturday, April 1? She’ll put on her coaching hat and drive four hours to Indiana’s next tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Top: Kendall Griffin, a graduate transfer at Louisville, tied for third in the 2022 ACC Women’s Championship, earning valuable WAGR points that helped get her into the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Photo: Chris Keane, USGA.
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