In the end, the balance of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur came down to a golfer with no expectations entering the week against a player who had the world on her shoulders before the first tee shot was struck. Rose Zhang, the top-ranked amateur in the world, prevailed. Barely.
Zhang, 19, squandered the six-shot lead she owned through three holes on the final day while also dealing with a three-hour weather delay. But the Stanford University sophomore righted herself just enough to shoot a four-over 76 and finish in a tie at nine-under with Georgian Jenny Bae, who mounted a comeback by tying the day’s best score of two-under 70.
After they tied with pars on the first playoff hole, the 18th, Zhang made a routine par on the 10th, while Bae suffered a bogey when her approach went long and left under a low-hanging magnolia tree, and that handed Zhang her first victory at Augusta National Golf Club in four tries.
“I greatly wanted to win this,” Zhang said. “It was a huge desire, but at the same time, I didn’t want myself to get too ahead in terms of my thinking and where my head was at.”
The Augusta victory completes a quadrilateral of top amateur wins for Zhang, after triumphs in the US Women’s Amateur, US Girls’ Junior and the individual portion of the 2022 NCAA Division I Championship.
Bae, 21 and a senior at the University of Georgia, said earlier in the week that she had no expectations for results because she missed the cut last year in her only previous appearance. But the woman who grew up 240 kilometres to the west of Augusta in Suwanee, Georgia, overcame a double-bogey on the third hole and twice got to within one stroke of Zhang before ultimately tying her by sticking her iron approach into the 17th hole to two feet.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier on a golf course that much in my life,” Bae said later of the shot. “I saw it and I marked it and I hit it. I mean, I’ve never heard such big-like yelling on a golf course. It just felt amazing.”
Of pushing Zhang to the end and the experience she got in that, Bae, who will turn pro after the college season, said, “It will definitely give me a lot of confidence, especially I just shot nine-under in one of the most stressful and pressuring environments.”
Starting with a five-shot lead at 13-under after record-breaking performances in the first two rounds at Champions Retreat Golf Club, Zhang opened the final round with a nervous-looking tee shot, pushing her drive to the right and into the huge fairway bunker. She was close enough to the front lip that she could only lay up, and eventually made a double-bogey.
Still, when Zhang got a shot back with a birdie at the second, she was soon six shots ahead of Bae, who birdied the second hole but double-bogeyed the third to drop six shots behind.
From there, Bae made par after par directly in front of Zhang and birdied the ninth. The leader bogeyed the fourth and fifth, and, after being stopped for bad weather while on the eighth hole, she made the turn only two shots ahead. When Bae birdied the par-5 13th, she was briefly only one behind, but Zhang topped her with a birdie.
Then disaster struck Zhang at the par-5 15th. From the fairway, she decided to go for the green with a wood, but hit it thin and the ball came up well short in the water. Zhang then hit her fourth shot well past the flag and two-putted for a bogey that dropped her margin to one. Bae then tied her with the tremendous birdie at the 17th.
Zhang had a look at winning the championship outright on the 54th hole with a 20-foot birdie putt, but it wasn’t firm enough and drifted short of the hole.
Heartbreak for the lone Australian, Justice Bosio
A bogey at the 36th hole caused heartbreak for Justice Bosio as she missed the cut at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur by one shot.
Bosio’s chances of being inside the top 30 and ties at the prestigious amateur event – who moved on to play the final round at Augusta National – balanced on a knife’s edge throughout the second round at Champions Retreat after she opened the tournament with a three-over par 75.
Australia’s top-ranked female amateur started in fine fashion on Thursday with a bogey-free front nine that included a birdie, but her back nine turned into a rollercoaster ride.
Back-to-back bogeys at the par 4 12th and 13th holes were followed by consecutive birdies at the par-5 14th and par-4 15th and from there the Queenslander needed to par her way home to earn a place in the final round on the hallowed turf of Augusta National.
She made par at the 16th and 17th but bogeyed the par-5 18th to sign for an even-par 72 and end the competitive component of her week.
– Dane Heverin, golf.org.au