EVANS, Georgia – Kate Smith has cried intermittently in recent weeks as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur approaches.
They were happy, anxious tears.
“It’s probably the best time of my life so far,” she said. “A bit of everything to gain this week.”
Maybe even a chance for the title.
The Nebraska senior was the hottest player on the course Wednesday at Champions Retreat when the first round was suspended due to bad weather. When the game was called, Smith had 4 under through 11 holes – already three off the field – and was facing a 7-foot par at No.12.
Augusta National Women’s Amateur: open field scores | Full coverage
“A normal tournament I’d be pretty disappointed,” she said, “but this week it’s been so great, I’m just excited for another day here – another day to go low and putts. “
Smith was bogeyless on a day when only two players were in the clubhouse with a sub-par score. Rose Zhang, the reigning American amateur champion and the world’s highest ranked player, posted a score of 1 under 71, alongside Spain’s Ana Peleaz. Three other players were 1 under par when the horn sounded, including world No.2 Linn Grant.
“It was a fun game,” said Smith, “and I’m excited to be finishing it soon.
Highlights: Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Round 1
Round one play is scheduled to resume at 7:45 a.m. ET on Thursday. Twenty-nine players have yet to complete their first round, which could result in a marathon Thursday in which the field is supposed to be reduced to 30 to play the third and final round on Saturday at Augusta National.
Only seven players broke parity after 36 holes at that event in 2019, and Champions Retreat was as ruthless as ever on Wednesday as the wind picked up past the incoming cold front. Stretched to nearly 6,500 yards, the course gave players all they could manage with firm, smooth greens that weren’t receptive to mid-race approaches. There have already been 22 sets of 77 or worse.
“The greens are very, very difficult, and with the wind it’s even more difficult,” said Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, the world No. 3 who opened with 75. “That’s why he didn’t there are no very low scores.
Despite the expected trouble at Champions Retreat, Clarisse Louis always finds a smile
Except, of course, for Smith, who will have work to do Thursday morning to keep a blank card. A fifth year senior in Nebraska, she was informed by Augusta National late last fall that she was under consideration for an ANWA invite as one of America’s Top 30 Fans. Wanting to keep her game precise, the 21-year-old from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota headed south to Florida over the winter and tested her game against the elite women. She also underwent an attitude adjustment.
“I’ve been working really hard the last few months,” she says. “I thought, you can win this event, not just make the cup. You can be up there. You are as good as everyone else.
A few weeks ago, she won her first college event and has now traveled to Augusta, full of confidence, ready to perform on the biggest stage of her career.