Wildcat women's golfers talk training and experience at first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur
Arizona sophomore golfer Yu-Sang Hou was on her way to class nearly a year ago when an incoming call popped up on her phone. As she looked at her screen, Augusta, Ga., appeared underneath the unidentified number.
Although she didn’t know who was calling, Hou knew that call had the potential to give her an opportunity of a lifetime. The call had informed her that she was invited to the first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“Are you serious? I was like, ‘is this a prank?'” Hou said when describing her emotions after getting the call.
For Hou, the idea of getting into the tournament seemed like a long shot, but little did she know, a call would come her way. The invite meant more than just a chance to play in a ground-breaking tournament for college golf, it meant a chance to play against her sister Vivian Hou. Vivian, who has already committed to the UA, got her invite while they were back home in Taipei via direct mail.
Senior golfer Haley Moore went through the same jaw-dropping experience in the form of direct mail as well. A letter from Augusta National addressed to her broke the news she’d be playing in the event alongside her teammate and another future Wildcat.
“Just opening up that letter, it was just pretty special because I kind of felt like a PGA pro, because they receive that exact same letter for attending the Masters,” Moore said.
Fast forward to a little under a year later and the UA Women’s golfers were set to play at one of the most historic places to golf in the world. While Moore and Hou knew about the tournament a year in advance, they prepared for this moment for their entire lives.
For student-athletes like Moore, who are in their last year of eligibility as a college golfer, the significance of this tournament is at an even greater level.
“Especially for the college players who are seniors or who are possibly wanting to turn pro, it’s such a huge step and it’s just amazing for them, they may never step on those grounds again,” Moore said.
This time of year has been special for the Wildcats as they gear up for the end of the season and post season.
“It’s the most important part of the year just because you want to have your game strong heading into the conference and regionals and qualifying for nationals,” Moore added.
The three Wildcats, two current and one future, teed off against 72 other amateur golfers from around the world. Although the field features athletes from around the world, Moore talked about her familiarity with the field.
“There’s a lot of college girls that we’ve seen before and then a lot of junior golfers who are going to be coming to college in a couple years that we’ve played with,” she said.
The four-day event (April 3-6) featured three rounds of competitive golf and one practice round at Augusta National. After rounds one and two were over, the top 30 golfers moved on to the final round at the world-famous Augusta National golf course where the Masters is played. The first two rounds took place at the Champions Retreat golf course.
In order to prepare for both courses, Moore hired a caddie to walk her through how both courses play.
“I haven’t heard much, but I’ve rented a caddie who knows both Augusta and [Champions Retreat] … He wanted to know how far I hit all of my clubs and everything, and he was going to go out on the course, and if there is water or bunkers or if I have to carry a green this far, he will tell me,” Moore said.
To qualify for this prestigious tournament, executives looked to the world amateur golf rankings. The top 30 U.S. golfers and the top 30 international golfers were invited to the tournament. To fill in the rest of the spots, a collection of recent tournament winners would also have the chance to be invited.
Since the tournament was announced last April, the top amateur golfers around the world have fought to earn a spot at the invitational, but for Moore and Hou, preparation for this tournament stems back to their early days of golf, when their goals were to make it to the next level.
For Moore, Jim Flick, one of the world’s most famous golf instructors, was a mentor to her and elevated her game to where it is now. Flick, who was known for coaching Jack Nicholas, has since passed away, but his lessons to Moore still hold true for her.
“[Flick] talked about me being on a national championship team and just picking the right place that feels like home … still today, I always think of him when I win a tournament, just 'cause he was the one that just got me to the next level,” Moore said.
For Hou, a successful golfer from Taiwan who goes by the name of “Mr. Lu” was a staple to the development of both Hou sisters. Hou explained his golf lessons touched on much more than the game of golf; he taught her life lessons.
“He said to me that being a good person is more important than everything,” Hou said.
Hou also talked about Arizona head coach Laura Ianello and the part she has played throughout her career.
“She is the one who brought me into this family and my whole college life. It’s just amazing,” Hou said.
With so many famous holes at Augusta National, Moore said before the tournament she was looking forward to playing hole 16, which has been one of the more difficult holes in Masters history. It turns out, Moore’s highlight of the trip happened on that very hole.
“My favorite moment of the tournament was hitting a shot to two feet on the par-three 16th with a lot of people watching," Moore said to Arizona Athletics. "It was so awesome to hear them roar. I am feeling pretty confident in parts of my game that I haven't felt in a while. With our conference tournament approaching and then postseason play, it feels great.”
Regardless of the outcome, three Wildcats made history by attending this tournament. The Hou sisters came up two places short (both tied for 32nd) and missed the cut this year, but they both have time to improve in years to come.
Moore, who ended the first two rounds in a tie for eighth place, was able to move one more spot up the leaderboard on Saturday and tie for seventh place. The senior used a final round score of a 72 (even par) to stay within the top 10 of the field and also pared the first 15 holes of the round.
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