Back In Augusta To Share LSU’s Experience In The ANWA – LSU

Note: First round tee times were moved back one hour after overnight rains and the writing of this column.

AUGUSTA, Georgia — Good Morning! It’s opening day of the 2024 Augusta National Women’s Amateur and yours truly and that very large “Geaux Lowe” caricature is back again for another look at this fascinating tournament.

As you look over this over your morning coffee, in my case iced tea, or whatever you are drinking at the moment, LSU graduate students Ingrid Lindblad and Latanna Stone are about to head to the tee box for their opening rounds at the site of the first two rounds, Champions Retreat.

What will the next two days bring for them and for LSU signee Rocio Tejeda, who is following in the footsteps of her older sister Carla, to this prestigious event that certainly rivals other major women’s amateur tournaments because of the elite field of golfers.

The numbers are staggering for this year’s event

7 – Number of players who finished in the top 10 in 2023 are back and that includes LSU’s Stone, who finished solo eighth in 2023 after her T2 finish in 2022.

8 – Number of colleges, including LSU, that have at least three present, past or future students in the field.

9 – Players in the field who are past Drive, Chip and Putt National Finalists, and that includes Tiger Stone.

17 – Different countries and six continents are represented in the field. Sweden, including Lindblad, and Spain, including Tejedo, have six each. Japan is the leader with eight.

43 – Number of returning players to the ANWA, the first time more returnees are in the field than first-time players (29).

37 – Number of fairways in regulation Stone hit last year in her eighth-place finish, second best in the field.

300 – Number of feet of putts, Stone, of Riverview, Florida made last year, again second in the field.

2 – Schools that have most top 10 finishes in the event; Stanford and LSU have four top 10s each. Lindblad was T3 in 2021, T2 in 2022; Stone was T2 in 2022; 8 in 2023.

There are more numbers to get into later in the week but we mentioned there are 43 players who have been here at least twice and several who are playing for the third or fourth time. I asked LSU’s two players what they would say to one of the players if they came asking for advice.

“Probably not to get too overwhelmed and not make it too complicated,” Lindblad said. “You know, I usually say not to try to create a shot that you don’t have, but on this course, I think you might have to create a shot that you don’t have in your bag. Just not make it too complicated. Enjoy it. Have fun. You know, anyone can win. I said it yesterday. Anyone can win at this place.”

“Be Patient. Anything can happen. If things aren’t going your way, they can flip easily for you,” Stone said she would relate to any of the rookies.

It’s interesting that the scoring average for the field has been a little bit up and down over the first four years of the event at Champions Retreat.

In the first year of the tournament the course scoring average was 73.66 in the first round and 73.72 in the second round. In 2021 in bad weather that delayed the second-round finish to Friday, the stroke average went up to 76.18 in the opening round and 76.88 on the round that took a day and a half to complete.

Scores were about a stroke lower in 2022 but there was a huge jump last year when scores averaged 74.75 in the first round and a very impressive 72.61 in the second round, 3.36 lower than 2022.

Weather Wednesday morning and brisk winds Wednesday and Thursday could make this a very tricky scoring venue.

The average cut line over the first four Championships is (+4). It has been over par each year: 146 (+2) in both 2019 and 2023, 149 (5) in 2022 and 150 (+6) in 2021.

When I walked in Champions Retreat, I did take a look to the concession stand down the way from the media center and I am looking forward to my first chance to attack a Masters sandwich. Yes, they have transported their way from Augusta National to Champions Retreat and the prices are just as good as at the host club.

Pimento Cheese, Chicken Salad are calling my name (sorry I’m not an egg salad person).

In many ways, Augusta National moves much of its operation to this club for these few days and you realize what an operation it is. Electronic scoreboards were being setup, camera men from The Golf Channel were making sure their camera positions were good with a little rehearsal and off to the corner of the 18th green, a crew was watching and helping an intrepid facility person cutting a few hanging limbs out of a very tall pine tree.

It is easy to see that Champions Retreat is a big-time country club with lovely homes and three schools right on the edge of the area. But it just seems to have that special zip from the parking attendants to the shuttle drivers to the people helping patrons throughout the area.

Come Friday and Saturday the players will have the chance of a lifetime to visit Augusta National and play some golf. Whether rookie or tourney veteran, it doesn’t ever get old.

As Lindblad said in a video interview that was posted Monday night previewing the ANWA, “It’s our Masters.”

Yes, it is. And to me in just its fifth year it has become one of, if not the most, important women’s amateur golf tournament to be invited to and play in. To win it, is everything.

Honored to be here to write it about and our LSU players once again. Thanks for “Geauxing Lowe” on this ANWA Wednesday.

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