3 Georgia Bulldogs teeing up in Augusta National Women’s Amateur tourney

Georgia's Caterina Don is one of three members of the Lady Bulldogs' golf team who will be competing this week in the Augusta National Women's Amateur tournament. Joining the sophomore from Italy is Isabella Holpfer, a freshman from Austria, and Candice Mahe', a sophomore from France. (Steven Colquitt/UGA Athletics)
Georgia's Caterina Don is one of three members of the Lady Bulldogs' golf team who will be competing this week in the Augusta National Women's Amateur tournament. Joining the sophomore from Italy is Isabella Holpfer, a freshman from Austria, and Candice Mahe', a sophomore from France. (Steven Colquitt/UGA Athletics)

ATHENS — Three Lady Bulldogs will represent UGA in the second annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur championship this week: Caterina Don, Candice Mahe’ and Isabella Holpfer. Each will drive down Magnolia Avenue on Tuesday with a different mindset.

Don is the grizzled vet. A sophomore at Georgia, she played in the inaugural event two years ago and played quite well, making the cut and finishing 12th overall. She would’ve played in it last year as well had the tournament not been canceled due to the pandemic. She wants to win this time.

Mahe’ is bursting with anticipation. A sophomore from France, Mahe’ (pronounced May) qualified for last year but was among the many rookies to be denied the opportunity because of the COVID cancellation. She has counted the days to this week and has been meticulous in preparing for the moment.

Holpfer is the wide-eyed rookie. A freshman from Austria, her first glimpse of the property will be when they arrive at the Augusta National clubhouse for Tuesday evening’s dinner. Holpfer (pronounced HAUL-fer) is nervous, of course, but also highly confident as a decorated amateur.

All of them are through-the-roof excited and appreciative of the opportunity to play a course that until very recently was reserved only for men.

“It’s a great honor because Augusta National didn’t get their first female members until, like, 2012, and they only have four female members,” said Holpfer, who clearly has done her research. “So, for us amateurs to be able to play a tournament there is a really great honor.”

Said Don: “Augusta National is a beautiful place, full of history. You not only get to play, you get to go inside the clubhouse, have a dinner and experience almost what a pro does when they play (in the Masters). It’s a beautiful opportunity, a week full of emotions that you will keep in your heart forever. It’s definitely a story I’ll tell to my children.”

Georgia golfer Isabella Holpfer during the final day of the Liz Murphey Fall Collegiate Classic Saturday, Nov. 8, 2020, at the UGA Golf Course in Athens. (Chamberlain Smith/UGA)
Georgia golfer Isabella Holpfer during the final day of the Liz Murphey Fall Collegiate Classic Saturday, Nov. 8, 2020, at the UGA Golf Course in Athens. (Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

Credit: Chamberlain Smith

Credit: Chamberlain Smith

Their invitations are a point of pride for Georgia, the state university located just 100 miles away. One of the perks is the Lady Dogs typically get a chance to play Augusta National once a year. It’s a proud program that has crowned national champions and won national championships.

“We’re trying to find the best players in the world and trying to live up to all the expectations we have here at the University of Georgia,” coach Josh Brewer said. “You’re trying to find the right fit and these three young ladies not only fit us golf-wise but represent the school perfectly. We’re very fortunate.”

Georgia isn’t the most represented school. That’s Southern Cal, which incredibly has six players in the 85-player field. But it’s one of just eight programs with three or more players competing. And Don, a sophomore from Italy, is one of the favorites.

Georgia golfer Candice Mahe' during the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic Sunday, March 21, 2021 at the UGA Golf Course in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)
Georgia golfer Candice Mahe' during the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic Sunday, March 21, 2021 at the UGA Golf Course in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA)

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

It’s an extremely competitive field. It includes the reigning champions from the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the Ladies’ British Open Amateur, the Women’s Asia-Pacific Amateur, the Girls’ British Open, the U.S. Girls’ Junior, the Girls Junior and previous ANWA winners. Also invited are the 30 highest-ranked U.S. amateurs from 2020 not otherwise qualified and the 30 highest-rated players from women’s world rankings.

Wake Forest senior Jennifer Kupcho won the inaugural event in 2019. Yuka Saso, a UGA commit at the time, shot 69 in the final round and finished third. But then she turned pro without ever playing for the Bulldogs. She has since won twice on the Japan Tour.

A 54-hole, stroke-play tournament, the first 36 holes are played at Champions Retreat Golf Club nearby in Evans. The top 30 players make the cut and advance to the final 18-hole round on Augusta National’s hallowed grounds on Saturday. That round will be televised on NBC (12-3 p.m.).

In between, every player gets to participate in a practice round on Friday at Augusta National. The Masters Tournament will of course be conducted there next week.

“I’m not going to lie; it’s intense,” Don said. “You know the amount of great players there are and you know how well you’re going to have to play in order to make the cut and play Augusta National. So, sometimes it can get frustrating out there because the course is really hard. But that’s all part of the game and why this week is such a great week.”

Said Mahe’: “I wish I was not going to be nervous; I’m obviously going to be nervous. I need to think about that. But all of us have experienced playing in championships and I think we know how to react to that. ... You need to just take it as a college tournament.”

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