AUGUSTA, Ga. — Four current members of the Duke women’s golf program and one incoming freshman had the privilege to play a practice round Friday at the historic Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
As part of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, senior Virginia Elena Carta, junior Ana Belac, sophomore Jaravee Boonchant, freshman Gina Kim and incoming freshman Erica Shepherd walked the famed course ahead of the final round of the championship on Saturday, April 6.
“Definitely not what I expected from seeing the course on television,” commented Shepherd. “I knew the greens were really undulated, but I had no idea the approach shots and the fairways all had slope. Everything has a slope, I mean everything, which I wasn’t expecting, but it’s something that adds character to the course.”
Both Boonchant and Shepherd finished in the top 30 of the 36-hole event played at Champions Retreat Golf Club ahead of the final round at Augusta National Saturday. The final round will be aired live on NBC from 12-3 p.m.
“It’s actually my kind of course,” Shepherd explained. “I like to image different shots and play a lot of break on putts, cuts and draws, so it is definitely my kind of course. Hard not to spend most the day smiling walking this course.”
Boonchant, a native of Bangkok, Thailand, is tied for eighth through 36 holes, while Shepherd is tied for 19th.
“It is definitely more challenging,” Boonchant explained. “On television, the holes look pretty flat and short because of the guys are hitting it so far. After playing today, I can see and feel a lot of elevation changes which makes it very hard.”
After struggling in round one, the trio of Belac (73), Kim (73) and Carta (74) turned in solid second rounds Thursday, but missed the cut. The Blue Devils still had the chance to play Augusta National on Friday and gained valuable experience this week.
“It was probably one of the best experiences of my life,” said Belac. “I never expected to be able play on such a world class golf course that you can usually see it on television for most people and having the honor of being around the world’s best players and playing on such a great course.”
“Amazing,” commented Carta about Friday’s round. “I cannot even find a word to describe what it was to play Augusta. It is another type of golf. It is almost not golf what we played today. You have to be very creative. Thankfully we were assigned a caddie, because they were really, really helpful reading the greens and telling us where to hit the ball towards the green. It was a great experience and I played very well so that made just much better.”
In Saturday’s final round, Shepherd will tee off at 8:50 a.m., along with Natalie Srinivasan, while Boonchant will open play at 9:40 a.m., with Haley Moore. The course will play 6,365 yards at a par 72.
At 7:45 a.m., Saturday morning, four legends in women’s golf will help kick off the final round as Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and Se Ri Pak will have ceremonial first tee shots.
Duke is one of seven schools with two golfers remaining in the field of 30 – Florida State, Florida, Arizona State, Furman, Georgia and Texas. Jennifer Kupcho owns a 36-hole ledger of five-under, 139, through leads the individual action heading into Saturday.
As a team, No. 1 ranked Duke will next travel to Greensboro, N.C., to compete in the ACC Championship April 18-20 at Sedgefield Country Club.