It's worth getting excited for this week's Augusta National Women's Amateur. Heck, you could put me and my friends on the second nine at Augusta, and it would be thrilling theater. But to have the best women's ams in the world contending for what is hopefully the first of many silver cups should be quite a show one week ahead off the 2019 Masters.
Let's take a look at this week's contest.
What: Augusta National Women's Amateur
Where: Champions Retreat Golf Club (April 3-4), Augusta National (April 6) -- Augusta, Georgia
Times: 9 a.m. ET (April 3-4), 8 a.m. ET (April 6)
About the event: The 72-golfer field will be trimmed to 30 participants after 36 holes of play at local Champions Retreat Golf Club (a course your's truly has haunted a few times). Those 30 will then get a full 18-hole practice round on Friday at Augusta National before the finals gets underway on Saturday. There will also be the Masters the following week.similar to
Who's invited? There are myriad ways to qualify -- all of which are outlined here -- but the primary way is to place highly in the Women's Amateur Golf Rankings.
What do you win? Maybe my favorite part. The first thing you get is a five-year invite to the event -- which is not going to be used by most winners because they'll be turning pro -- but you also get this awesome trophy that has photos of all the flowers for which holes are named at Augusta National.
Five golfers to know
There are actually some names you may have heard or come across while casually following golf. If not, here's an introduction. Beware, there are some absolute studs in this event.
1. Maria Fassi: The Arkansas standout has been one of the faces of the event thus far and deservedly so. She was last year's SEC Player of the Year and the ANNIKA Award winner for the best player in college golf.
2. Jennifer Kupcho: She is currently the No. 1-ranked women's amateur in the world with a NCAA Championship under her belt while at Wake Forest. Superstar status and primed to join the LPGA Tour in short order.
3. Andrea Lee : The 20-year-old from Stanford is No. 3 in the women's amateur rankings and was just named Pac-12 Player of the Month in February. She made the cut at the 2014 U.S. Women's Open at Pinhurst as a 15-year-old.
4. Erica Shepherd: She's headed to Duke in the fall, but first ... Augusta National. Shepherd is the 2017 U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur champion and one of the three highest ranked juniors (pre-college) in the field.
5. Alex Pano: You might know her from the Netflix documentary "The Short Game," where she was featured as a preteen competing in junior events around the country. She's lived up to the hype, too, and is ranked in the top 70 in the women's amateur rankings. Why is that special? Well, she's still just 14, making her the youngest participant in this event. She's also ranked No. 1 in Golfweek's junior rankings.
Maybe the most controversial player in the field, Lucy Li, whose amateur status came under fire for appearing in an Apple ad recently withdrew because of injury.
Winner -- Maria Fassi: It would be fitting if one of the faces of this event also became its first champion. She wins a ton -- eight times since the end of 2017 -- and this would be the crown jewel before she eventually embarks on a professional career.
Top 10 -- Jennifer Kupcho: Experience is going to matter more than normal this weekend as emotions run high and the tension gets a little thick. She's been through a lot of battles and is one of the most seasons players in the field.
Sleeper -- Atthaya Thitikul: Another teenage star, I don't know that she's a sleeper as she's ranked in the top 10 of the women's amateur rankings, but she's certainly really young at 16. She's made the cut at a lot (!) of pro events and was the youngest winner ever on the Ladies European Tour at age 14 (!). She will be dangerous if she makes the final 30.