Memories collected for most but the real battles are set for Saturday

All 81 young women in the Augusta National Women's Amateur rejoiced playing the famed Augusta National golf course as 30 of the best prepared to realise their dreams at Augusta National

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Rose Zhang - Charles Laberge - Augusta National

03 April 2021: There was a chill in the air, dew on the ground and not a cloud in the sky. As the world’s top women amateurs arrived at the calm and quiet surroundings of Augusta National Golf Club, there were butterflies in most stomachs.
In just two short years, Friday at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur has become one of the most special days of the year in amateur golf. And a competitive shot wasn’t even struck. All 81 participants played a practice round at the home of the Masters Tournament. The top 30 players will compete in the final round on Saturday, April 3, which will be broadcast live on NBC from noon – 3:00 p.m. EDT.
Rose Zhang and Ingrid Lindblad are tied for the lead at one-under 143. Auston Kim and Olivia Mehaffey are tied for third place at even par. Gina Kim, Karen Fredgaard and Tsubasa Kajitani are tied for fifth place, two strokes off the lead.
Thirteen players are within four strokes of the lead. Nine players will be making their second appearance in Saturday’s highly anticipated final round. The opportunity to tee it up on Friday means different things to different players. For some, it was their first time playing or seeing the golf course – the first time walking the hallowed grounds with their families nearby. Some were making a return trip after two years and were better prepared for what to expect.
Then there’s the intense preparation. Those who missed the cut could enjoy and soak up the experience without added pressure.
Those in contention were having fun as well, but they were also aware of the task at hand to prepare
for the final championship round.
Northern Ireland’s Mehaffey fits several categories. She shot the low round of the opening 36 holes, a three-under-par 69, in the second round on Thursday and is in contention, just one stroke back. She also played in the inaugural championship in 2019 and finished T-23, shooting a four-over 76 in the final round.
“Today, I was more focused on my golf preparing for what to expect, where to be, some of the putts,” Mehaffey said. “I think having that experience allows you to kind of focus a little bit more on the
golf course and where you want to be tomorrow.”
Mehaffey has one other advantage. She is using local caddie Brian McKinley, who was on Jennifer Kupcho’s bag two years ago when she shot a final-round 67 to win the inaugural Augusta
National Women’s Amateur by four strokes over Maria Fassi. Most decisions this week are made with emotion because there is so much at stake.
Perhaps Katherine Smith, more than anyone else in the championship, felt every emotion possible during her first trip to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She was the overnight leader
on day one when rain suspended the round but returned the following day to play 25 holes and found herself in a five-way playoff for one remaining spot in the final round.
The outcome did not go her way, but she didn’t let it dampen her spirits.
“Obviously, I didn’t bring home a trophy or anything spectacular myself, but I really think this experience isn’t about me as an individual. It’s more about the game of golf and all of us being here as
a whole,” Smith said.
On Friday, Smith played Augusta National with a Club caddie. Smith’s brother Karter, her caddie during the first 36 holes, walked alongside the entire way while their parents followed from
outside the ropes. Then, late in the round, her Augusta National moment happened.
“They let them in on Amen Corner to take a picture,” Smith said. “We’ll see how many years we can put that on a Christmas card.”
Friday was full of memories that will last a lifetime. Tomorrow, there will also be competition, but the players know their impact will be more than where their name falls on the leader board.
“Growing up, I can picture myself being 10 years old, looking up to the pros,” said 19-year-old Rachel Heck, a freshman at Stanford University who is tied for eighth and three strokes off the lead
going into the final round. “But to actually have that stage before that to look up to amateur golf for women, you know, to be able to look at these women playing Augusta is just really special, and I think it
will continue to grow the women’s game.”