One started at the front of the pack, only a couple of shots off the lead. The other barely made the final round of the tournament, winning a coveted spot in an 11-person playoff to finalize the top 30. Both got the experience of a lifetime.
Sophomores Agathe Laisne and Kaitlyn Papp completed the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, and while neither pulled off the inaugural victory, both made history by taking part in the course’s first competitive round for women.
“I thought the course was in tremendous shape as you’d expect,” Papp said. “I feel like Augusta exceeds any expectations you have. It’s a truly magical place to play golf.”
The history-laden tournament began with the ceremonial first tee shot by a quartet of the most legendary golfers in history. World Golf Hall-of-Famers Se Ri Pak, Annika Sörenstam, Nancy Lopez and Lorena Ochoa set the tone on the first hole, even though one of them had a little trouble off the tee.
“I saw Anika put it in the bunker, so I thought, ‘you know, that’s golf,’” Laisne said. “Anything can happen, even to the best golfer in the world. She still makes mistakes and you have to accept it.”
Laisne played in one of the early groups as she was near the bottom of the top 30. While she competed, current Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, former chairman Billy Payne and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson looked on.
“It was pretty impressive because Bubba and I had just shaken hands before,” Laisne said. “It was really cool, and a bit stressful.”
While Laisne was really never close to contending, it was a completely different story for her teammate. Early in the round, Papp was one shot back of eventual winner Jennifer Kupcho, the highest-ranked amateur golfer in the world.
While Kupcho would go on to run away with the tournament, Papp played well on the biggest stage in women’s amateur golf.
“I feel like I was a touch nervous,” Papp said. “This is the biggest crowd we’ve all probably played in front of, but I felt confident. I knew if I could just send my tee shot down the fairway, I’d be fine.”
At the end of the day, Papp finished in a tie for fifth place, arguably her best finish in her collegiate career, ahead of some of her victories. Laisne finished in 29th place. Both players will be able to take a lot from this experience going forward for the rest of the season.
“I didn’t play that well, but it was still very nice,” Laisne said. “It was a great experience and I really enjoyed myself on the course.”
With the Masters beginning Thursday on the same greens walked by Papp and Laisne this weekend, the women will have played under very similar conditions as some of the world’s greatest professionals soon will.
“This is my second time playing Augusta, and both times, the undulation of the greens was so shocking but also makes it pretty fun,” Papp said. “You have to use your creativity and imagination to try and make the best putts you can make.”