AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Rose Zhang resumed her second round Friday morning and bogeyed at the Champions Retreat, falling a shot below the cut line at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She reacted like the No. 1 amateur in women’s golf, with birdies on her last three holes.
Not only was Zhang among the 30 players who qualified for the finals at Augusta National, the former US women’s amateur champion is just three shots from the lead.
“I had to stay calm out here,” Zhang said. “The atmosphere when you stand at the cutting line is very thick. I really had to stay in the moment and just try to make it happen.”
Zhang then joined the rest of the 60-player field on a 30-minute shuttle ride to the Masters’ home stadium. Augusta National was packed with players and their caddies – some of them parents – in traditional white overalls on Friday afternoon.
Everyone gets a practice round. Only the top 30 advance to Saturday’s finals, a group that also includes Germany’s Paula Schulz-Hanssen. She was among four players who had to play extra holes for last place in the finals and advanced to a par on the fourth playoff hole – no less than on her 19th birthday.
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“This is a great gift for me,” she said.
Despite all the fatigue from a tournament that was postponed by 7 1/2 hours on Thursday due to heavy rain, there was no lack of excitement.
The first part was an attempt to compete in what is already among the most elite tournaments for female amateurs. What followed was Augusta National, in part for the first time.
Beatrice Wallin (71) and Latanna Stone (72) tied for the 36-hole, par-144 straight lead, one shot ahead of USC star-in-waiting Avery Amari; Emma Spitz at UCLA; and Amalie Leth-Nissen from Denmark.
Two tough rounds in three days at the Champions Retreat left a ranking so bundled that anyone with a start time at Saturday’s Augusta National is still in it. Only six shots separated the top from the bottom.
“When I think there’s 30 people, 30 of the best players in the world, and five from the top, I think everyone’s in this tournament,” said Rachel Heck.
Much like Zhang, Heck had cause for concern. She’s another rising star, a sophomore at Stanford who won six times in one semester last year.
Heck, the No. 3 amateur women’s, had a pair of double bogeys and was 5 overs for her round – 6 overs for the tournament – when Thursday’s play was interrupted by darkness. She shagged two of her last three holes and avoided the 4-on-1 playoff with one shot to go.
“There were a lot of emotions out there. My heart is still beating really fast,” she said.
Zhang and Heck have competed at Augusta National before, and Friday afternoon was the time to remember the best lines and angles and the places to avoid.
Stone, one of the co-leaders, never played Augusta National as of Friday. Wallin, a senior at Florida State, made the finals the last two times at the Augusta Women’s Amateur. What did she learn?
“A lot can happen that it’s a tough course,” said Wallin. “I’m just going to play shot by shot and just enjoy it because it’s going to be the last time I play it and play this event,” Wallin said. “So I’ll just walk out with a big smile. ”
Group two shots outside the lead included Anna Davis, the 16-year-old from San Diego County, who finished Thursday in the dark on her second round and was able to spend all Friday soaking up the spirit and color of Augusta National.
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