AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP)The model of calm beneath her bucket hat, 16-year-old Anna Davis cruised her away around the back nine Saturday at Augusta National without a bogey and seemingly without a care.
Only after she finished off a 3-under 69 at the home of the Masters did the nerves kick in while watching the final two groups in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
She thought her 12-foot birdie putt that slid by the cup might cost her.
And then she watched from the scoring cabin as Latanna Stone threw away a two-shot lead with two holes to play by making double bogey from the 17th fairway and a bogey from the pine straw on the final hole, making Davis the youngest champion at the home of the Masters.
”I don’t think it’s processed yet that I’ve won here, but it’s pretty surreal, to be honest,” Davis said. ”I can’t even fathom what just happened. It all happened very quickly.”
And to think it was only a year ago when Davis, a left-hander from just east of San Diego, jumped into the national picture with her first AJGA title, followed by the Girl’s Junior PGA Championship at Valhalla.
That’s where her dad told her to put on a bucket hat because the Kentucky sun was beating down on her nose. Now she wears one all the time – so did the entire Davis clan watching her win on golf’s grandest stage with a remarkable closing around and a little help.
That came from Stone, the junior at LSU who looked to have this won with a tee shot that caught the slope on the par-3 16th and fed down to 3 feet for birdie and a two-shot lead.
And then it all came undone. She went with wedge instead of 9-iron from a uphill in the 17th fairway, flared it and left it short. Her tough pitch over a deep bunker came out clunky and ran to the back edge of the green. She three-putted for double bogey to fall into a tie with Davis.
”I was more nervous watching her than playing my round out there,” Davis said.
Stone pushed her drive into the pine straw, did well to get to the front of the green and then chipped too strong. Her 15-foot par putt to force a playoff never had a chance.
”It’s just heartbreaking, you know?” said Stone, who shared a long and tearful embrace with USC freshman Amari Avery, one of five players who had a share of the lead at some point.
”I kind of knew where I stood on 17, and I was just thinking, `Par out.’ I just didn’t have the right club and left myself with a difficult up-and-down,” she said. ”I was trying to be aggressive and just kind of lost it. Thought I could get it back on 18, but I had a lot going on in my head with where I was at.”
She closed with a 72 and tied for second with LSU teammate Ingrid Lindblad, who bogeyed the 18th from a fairway bunker and had to settle for a 68.
Davis was the only player to finish under par at 1-under 215, and the victory came with a big surprise: She is exempt into the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles in June.
”That’s insane,” she said.
Davis began her week at Champions Retreat, where the opening two rounds were played, by saying she didn’t know most of the players in the field because of her age.
They all know her now with her cool head and soft touch around the greens, particularly a tough chip from behind the 17th green for a tap-in par that kept her in the hunt.
She got in the mix with an 8-iron that landed near the hole on the par-3 12th for a 4-foot birdie, and her wedge that rode the ridge down to 3 feet for birdie on the 13th.
”I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of that many people,” Davis said. ”I wasn’t as nervous. I knew I was an underdog in the field. I didn’t have as much pressure on me to do extremely well. I was just out there having fun.”
Beatrice Wallin of Florida State, who started the final round tied with Stone at even par, closed with a 73 and tied for fourth alone with Amari Avery (72) and Benedetta Moresco (71).
Davis is a sophomore in high school who still doesn’t have a driver’s license and can’t even talk to college recruiters until June. Her two victories last year enabled her to be part of the Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup teams.
In three AJGA events this year, she has finished second, fourth and third, rising to No. 100 in the world women’s amateur ranking.
Masters chairman Fred Ridley presented her the trophy – no green jacket for this win – and introduced her as part of winners at Augusta National.
”I want to be the best in the world,” she said.
Davis doesn’t watch much television, golf included. Her only memory of the Masters was being in the golf shop at home in 2019 while watching Tiger Woods putt out on the 18th hole to win his fifth and most improbably Masters.
On this day, she made a few memories of her own.
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