- Golfer Benefits
When Jenna Walkiewicz took her assigned spot on the golf course each morning during the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA), she felt a familiar rush of emotion.
“I used to always get first tee jitters and I 100% got that every single morning,” Walkiewicz said. “It’s such a prestigious event, and I said ‘I’m not even playing and I am nervous.'”
The ANWA, which takes place a week prior to the Masters, features an international field of 72 talented women amateurs competing in a 54-hole stroke play championship. It concludes with a practice round and 18-holes of competition at Augusta National Golf Club, which has the grandstands and gargantuan scoreboard set up to create the feel of the Masters. Nearby Champions Retreat, which features Arnold Palmer’s Island nine and Jack Nicklaus’ Bluff nine, hosts the first two rounds.
Introduced in 2018 and first contested in 2019, the ANWA was created to “inspire greater interest and participation in the women’s game.” But that initiative also applied to those who staff the championship.
In 2019, Walkiewicz was working for the Florida State Golf Association, and thanks in part to having expert certification on the USGA Rules Exam, she was selected to join the Rules Committee for the championship. Now serving as Mass Golf’s Assistant Director of Member Growth & Services, Walkiewicz was re-invited to this year’s ANWA to join a highly-select Rules Committee, which included representatives from other state golf associations and two overseas representatives, including Shona McRae, Assistant Rules Director for the R&A.
Though it was a return trip to Augusta National, she said the experience was just as surreal as the last time.
“It’s an absolute honor and truly one of the best experiences that a woman working in the golf industry could ask for,” Walkiewicz said. “Every time you go back to Augusta, it’s like magic. It’s like you’re witnessing it for the first time all over again. Everything Augusta National touches, they literally strive for perfection. And even if I might not think something needs to be improved, they’re always working to be better.”
Walkiewicz described a “quintessential Georgia vibe” from the moment arriving on-site at Champions Retreat for the championship. String lights and azaleas catch one’s eyes as do the quaint cottages that house the staff on site and line the road that leads to the clubhouse.
Throughout the event, there is a uniform level of enthusiasm and high attention to details exuded from everybody on staff, from Rules Officials to groundskeepers, all the way to the folks who serve food or unlock the gates in the morning.
“To have every single person gung-ho about working regardless of their position, that’s special,” Walkiewicz said.
For Rules Officials, Walkiewicz said there is extensive preparation and specific situations to study, but it’s all in service of the players.
“They give you all the information you need — the prep work and the Rules materials — and a map of the course telling you exactly where the best location for you to stand,” she said.
Preview Champions Retreat from above and learn more about its design. #ANWAgolf pic.twitter.com/qc23SYQgpR
— Augusta National Women’s Amateur (@anwagolf) March 28, 2022
Once the competition began, Walkiewicz would monitor pace of place and stay ready for a situation that would necessitate her involvement. Most of her rulings during the competition dealt with temporary water as rain delayed Day 2 of competition for 7 hours. A total of 51 players had to finish on Day 3 Friday to determine the cut for the final round at Augusta.
On one occasion a player hit a golf bag from a bunker shot, and it struck another player’s bag. Walkiewicz was there and confirmed the Rule, which states “Accidental deflections, including when the ball hits the player or opponent or their equipment or caddies: There is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies (with limited exceptions).”
“You have to be on point because you want to make sure that you can prevent any Rules infractions from happening and if you are needed, you’re ready to go,” she said.
When the action shifted to Augusta, Walkiewicz was assigned holes 10 and 18, allowing her to observe the turn and the finish. She said many asked if she knew the spot where Bubba Watson hit his iconic approach shot on hole 10 of the 2012 Masters. But mainly they were locked into the competition.
“That was cool to be at the hub of where everybody’s coming in, but then also see all the groups finishing on 18 as well,” she said. “It was also really cool to see just the droves of patrons coming down the hill.”
In addition to the dedication of the staff, Walkiewicz said she’s blown away by the talent and maturity of the players in the field, several of whom are just high schoolers. In fact, this year’s champion, 16-year-old Anna Davis, edged out two players from LSU and she doesn’t even have her driver’s license yet. Walkiewicz also crossed paths with some familiar faces from FSGA events, including Alexa Pano, who was born in Massachusetts and after the tournament announced she was turning pro.
Ultimately, the event continues to open doors and opportunities for women in the golf industry. But perhaps most importantly, while the Augusta experience only happens for a few days, everybody takes away lifetime memories.
“It was really cool that I got to go back and see it and see how much [the ANWA] has grown,” Walkiewicz said. “They just want to make sure everybody has a memorable experience and they will stop at nothing to make sure they achieve that.”
There was more female representation at Augusta National earlier this month as three junior golfers from Massachusetts took part in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Final.
Willow Ruel (The Bay Club At Mattapoisett) finished T6 in the Girls 10-11 Division, and she won the chipping portion of the event, with two chips inside 10 feet of the target. She also sank her final putt attempt.
Abby Zhu (Indian Ridge Country Club) hit two putts inside of 3 feet and finished 8th in the Girls 14-15 category.
Making her second appearance in as many years, Sudbury’s Champa Visetsin finished 10th in the Girls 12-13 category. Her second putt attempt halted just a half-inch from the cup.
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