By DOUG FERGUSON – AP Golf Author
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — 16-year-old Anna Davis, the model of calm under her bucket hat, drove her bogey-free and seemingly carefree around the back nine at Augusta National on Saturday.
It was only after she finished a 3-under 69 at the Masters’ home stadium that nerves began as she watched the final two groups of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
She figured her 12-foot birdie putt slipping past the cup might cost her.
And then she watched from the scoring booth as Latanna Stone threw away a two-shot, two-hole lead by making a double bogey from the 17th fairway and a bogey from the pine straw on the last hole, giving Davis the recent champion made home of champions.
“I don’t think it’s processed that I won here, but it’s pretty surreal to be honest,” Davis said. “I can’t even comprehend what just happened. It all happened very quickly.”
And considering it’s only a year since Davis, a left-hander from east of San Diego, burst onto the national scene with her first AJGA title, followed by the Girl’s Junior PGA Championship in Valhalla.
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There her father 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 — as does the entire Davis clan, who watched her victory on golf’s greatest stage with a remarkable finish and a little help.
That came from Stone, the junior at LSU, who appeared to have won this on a tee shot that hit the slope on the par-3 16th and was returned to 3 feet for a birdie and a two-shot lead.
And then everything was undone. She went from an uphill into the 17th fairway with a wedge instead of a 9 iron, flickered it and left it briefly. Her hard pitch over a deep bunker came out clunky and ran to the back edge of the green. She made a three-putt for double bogey to tie with Davis.
“I was more nervous watching them 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 hard. Her 15-foot par putt to force a playoff never stood a chance.
“It’s just heartbreaking, you know?” said Stone, who shared a long and tearful hug with USC rookie Amari Avery, one of five players who at one point had a stake in the lead.
“I kind of knew where I was at 17, and I was like, ‘Par out.’ I just didn’t have the right racquet and left myself with a difficult up and down,” she said. “I tried to be aggressive and kind of lost it. I thought I might get it back when I was 18, but I had a lot on my mind about where I was.”
She closed on a 72 and tied for second place with LSU teammate Ingrid Lindblad, who bogeyed 18th from a fairway bunker and had to settle for a 68.
Davis was the only player to finish 1-under 215 under par, and the win came with a big surprise: she’s suspended for the US Women’s Open at Pine Needles in June.
“This is crazy,” she said.
Davis began her week at Champions Retreat, where the first two rounds were played, by saying that she doesn’t know most of the players on the field because of their age.
You all know her now for her cool head and gentle touch on the greens, particularly a hard chip off the 17th green for a tap-in par that kept her on the hunt.
She came in with an 8 iron that landed near the hole on the par 3 for a 4 foot birdie near the hole and her wedge rode down the ridge at 3 feet for a birdie on the 13th.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of that many people,” Davis said. “I wasn’t that nervous. I knew I was an outsider on the field. I didn’t have that much pressure on me to do extremely well. I was just out there having fun.”
Florida State’s Beatrice Wallin, who started tied with Stone in the final round, finished with a 73 and tied for fourth place 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 won’t even be able to speak to college recruiters until June. Her two wins last year allowed her to be part of the Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup teams.
She placed second, fourth, and third in three AJGA events that year, rising to No. 100 in the women’s amateur world rankings.
Masters chairman Fred Ridley presented her with the trophy — no green jacket for that win — and introduced her as part of the winners at Augusta National.
“I want to be the best in the world,” she said.
Davis doesn’t watch much television, including golf. Her only memory of the Masters was in 2019, at home in the golf shop watching Tiger Woods putt on the 18th hole to win his fifth and highly unlikely Masters.
She made a few memories of her own that day.
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