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For a Few Days at Augusta National, the Spotlight Shines on the Women

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Anna Davis had simply turned 12 when Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership, in a shock, introduced it will create a brand new nationwide ladies’s beginner championship. On Saturday, now 16 years outdated, Davis gained the event.

Annika Sorenstam, who gained 10 L.P.G.A. main championships, attended the membership’s information convention in 2018, when Augusta Nationwide officers mentioned it wished the 54-hole event to learn ladies’s golf in any respect ranges.

“It is a dream come true,” Sorenstam mentioned on the time. “It is going to be an thrilling carrot for these younger amateurs.”

Sorenstam sat behind the primary tee on Saturday as Rachel Kuehn, who was 16 when the event was created, teed off within the last spherical.

“I circled and Annika Sorenstam was there and I believed, Oh my gosh, I’ve to hit the golf green,” Kuehn, who would end seventh, mentioned later. “I didn’t hit the golf green however it was actually cool to see her and so many individuals out supporting ladies’s golf. It’s what this event was meant to do.”

Amari Avery was 14 when Augusta Nationwide introduced the occasion, which included the information that the nationwide ladies’s beginner championship could be broadcast stay on NBC on the weekend earlier than the beginning of the Masters Event.

“The very first yr they performed it I noticed how electrical it was and I made it a purpose for myself to be part of that ambiance that very second,” Avery mentioned Saturday after she finished tied for fourth.

If Augusta Nationwide’s intent was to learn ladies’s golf, particularly the junior circuit, Kuehn, whose mom, Brenda, was a high beginner who would have cherished taking part in aggressive golf at Augusta Nationwide, and Avery, whose father is Black and mom is Filipino, every insisted the membership’s comparatively new beginner championship is reaching its goal.

“It’s simply been unimaginable,” Kuehn mentioned. “It’s a testomony to what Augusta Nationwide is doing right here.”

Avery, whose look 9 years in the past in a Netflix documentary about elite grade college golfers earned her comparisons to Tiger Woods, mentioned the Augusta Nationwide event was “enormous.”

“It’s arduous to search out phrases for a way a lot this has impacted beginner ladies’s golf,” she mentioned. “Seeing all these individuals lined up and clapping and cheering for us, it’s the way it must be and it’s a step in the fitting route, for certain.”

Andre Avery, Amari’s father, noticed the symbolism.

“For my daughter to activate the TV years in the past and see younger ladies taking part in on the golf course the place the Masters is performed, I imply that was a turning level for her,” Avery mentioned. “And immediately, for African American youngsters to be watching TV and see somebody that appears like them on the identical course, that’s a very large deal, too. It’s essential for them to see that.”

The primary Augusta Nationwide Girls’s Beginner was held in 2019 and the 2020 occasion was canceled by the pandemic, which inhibited attendance on the 2021 event as effectively. However on Saturday, the crowds at Augusta Nationwide, which started admitting ladies members in 2012, have been hearty, with the galleries across the closing holes 10 deep with followers. (Augusta Nationwide doesn’t launch attendance figures.)

“I’ve by no means performed in entrance of such large crowds,” Davis mentioned. “I’ve by no means seen something like that.”

Brenda Kuehn couldn’t assist however discover what number of ladies have been in attendance — and what number of had introduced their grade college and preteen daughters, who surged across the golfers as they completed their rounds, clamoring for autographs.

“I gave my golf ball to slightly woman as I got here off the 18th inexperienced immediately and I’m unsure if she understood what was happening, however the look and smile on her face was an exquisite factor,” Ingrid Lindblad of Sweden, who completed tied for second, mentioned.

Lindblad, a junior on the golf crew at Louisiana State, mentioned that certainly one of her professors even knew she could be competing on the storied golf membership.

“Not many individuals usually speak to me about certainly one of our school tournaments,” Lindblad mentioned. “Solely household and shut associates go to these. However that’s how this event is completely different. There’s no query it’s raised the profile of ladies’s golf. And that can proceed to have constructive results.”

Kuehn’s coach at Wake Forest College, Kim Lewellen, mentioned she has seen an increase in participation at junior ladies’ camps and within the variety of ladies recruits who’ve contacted her because the event’s inception. She credit the attraction of seeing ladies at a famend golf course and the truth that it’s contested the weekend earlier than the Masters is performed.

There are different outstanding American ladies’s beginner championships, just like the U.S. Girls’s Beginner, first performed in 1895, however Augusta Nationwide appears to have captured a particular foothold.

“It’s the platform,” mentioned Avery’s golf coach at Southern California, Justin Silverstein. “Arguably, everybody in golf has heard of Augusta Nationwide and even most informal sports activities followers have heard of the Masters. It’s essentially the most recognizable golf course on the planet.

“Younger ladies golfers activate NBC, and that’s one other enormous platform, and so they see those who seem like them — or individuals not that far faraway from them — and so they assume: Possibly I can do this too.”

Generally, that’s all it takes.

Davis, who shares her March 17 birthday with Bobby Jones, one of many founders of Augusta Nationwide who died in 1971, mentioned on Saturday that she had not heard of the occasion till final yr — when she watched it on tv.

“It made me very excited to try to compete on this occasion,” she mentioned. “Then I used to be excited after I discovered I used to be going to play right here.”

Now she is the event champion.

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