With ANWA win, Anna Davis earns prestige before driver’s license
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Anna Davis will have to wait a year to drive down Magnolia Lane for the first time, but when she does, she’ll already be a champion.
Armed with merely a learner’s permit, the 16-year-old from Spring Valley, California, rolled shotgun into Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday morning, seemingly switched over to cruise control for the last 14 holes and then watched as the leader’s title hopes came crashing down on the last two holes.
By the time all 30 finalists had crossed the finish line at this Augusta National Women’s Amateur, it was Davis being awarded the victory lap.
“I’m still a little shocked,” said Davis, who closed in 3-under 69 to take the clubhouse lead at 1 under and then glued herself to a nearby monitor to witness Latanna Stone’s late collapse, a double bogey-bogey finish that dropped Stone (72) into a tie for second with her LSU teammate Ingrid Lindblad (68), one shot behind Davis.
“I don’t think it’s processed yet that I’ve won here,” Davis added, “but it’s pretty surreal, to be honest. I literally – I’m speechless. I can’t even fathom what just happened. It all happened very quickly.”
Moments later, Davis was shuttled over to Augusta National’s lavish press center, and her eyes widened when she walked into the interview room, which was filled with a few dozen reporters, as well as her family and friends.
It was the first time all week that Davis had looked a little intimidated.
After all, for 54 holes the left-handed Davis had tackled the stoutest field in amateur golf and two beasts of a golf course, grabbing a share of the first-round lead at Champions Retreat, not getting rattled after a second-round 76 and then putting together a nearly flawless final-round performance around Augusta National.
Davis carded just one bogey on Saturday, at the par-4 fourth hole, where she flew the green from 85 yards out and failed to scramble for par. She later rolled in an 8-footer at the par-4 ninth before stuffing an 8-iron from 145 yards to 4 feet at the par-3 12th and rolling in the putt. She also birdied two of the par-5s, Nos. 2 and 13, and was unshaken down the stretch as others around her faltered – the other five players in the final three groups combined to shoot 8 over on the back nine.
It was just her first competitive round on the iconic layout, yet Davis acted like she had been here many times before.
“I think showing emotions on the golf course, showing anger, sadness, it kind of makes the other player have an advantage when they see that,” Davis said, “so I try to keep it to myself.”
When she missed a chance at birdie on the par-4 closing hole, Davis figured she’d be settling for second. But then Stone made a mess around the greens at Nos. 17 and 18.
“I was more nervous watching her than playing my round out there,” Davis said.
While Stone was in tears after signing her scorecard, Davis couldn’t help but crack a huge smile from underneath her white bucket hat, which did little to hide her long, straight brown hair that hung well past each shoulder. Her support section, which included parents Bill and Beatriz, twin brother Billy and longtime instructor Bill Barrett, were donning similar headwear, which they had bought earlier that morning in the merchandise building.
Between the ears, though, Davis doesn’t share much with her family, especially her parents.
“We’re both probably too excitable, nervous-type people who can’t sit down and can’t sit still,” said Bill Davis, who likened Saturday’s experience to the rest of his daughter’s tournament rounds – “torture … just at the nicest golf club in the world.”
“Anna, though,” he added, “she wasn’t born that way.”
Anna has been composed, dad says, since birth (she was born on March 17, Bobby Jones’ birthday), an easy baby who has developed into a mature-beyond-her-years teenager. When Billy, a talented golfer in his own right, decided to attend a private all-boys high school, where Bill Davis teaches, Anna opted for online coursework at the local public school so that she could spend more time at the golf course.
While the rest of her household departs for the classroom at 6 a.m. daily, Anna, a sophomore, heads to Steele Canyon Golf Club in Jamul, California, where she spends all day practicing, hanging out in the grill room and playing with the adult membership.
“I think I’ve always felt a little bit older than 16,” said Anna, who also wore a pearl necklace and barely zipped white quarter-zip over her sleeveless tart-colored polo for Saturday’s finale.
It has been only a year since Anna began traveling to junior tournaments by herself or with friends. Her first solo trip was to the AJGA’s Heather Farr Classic in Mesa, Arizona – and she won, sparking a run that included eight more finishes of fourth or better in junior events, including a convincing seven-shot romp at the Girls Junior PGA last July that earned her ANWA invite.
“She’s a good, steady kid who’s very independent, always has been,” Bill Davis said, “but now she’s found her voice.”
And clearly her game.
In the biggest tournament of her life, Anna wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment. She didn’t fret over not being able to use a rangefinder. She also didn’t employ a local caddie or parent to carry her bag, instead using a family friend, Randy Kirby, for the first time because he had caddied for Billy and Billy recommended him.
Truth is, Anna doesn’t need much help – she’s used to doing things by herself and within herself, whether it’s at Augusta National or Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Washington, where she won her first notable junior title at 9 years old.
The only thing Anna was slightly scared of Saturday was checking her phone.
“I don’t want to check,” she said. “It’s going to be so many messages. I don’t want to respond.”
Eventually, she will. She may be advanced for her age, but she’s still a teenager, always on her phone, texting and talking with friends. (Two of her closest golf pals, Alexa Pano and Megha Ganne, waited around Saturday afternoon to mob their recently crowned champ with bear hugs.)
To be fair, though, it’s arguably the only major screen time she logs.
Like her dad, Anna isn’t big into watching television. In fact, she admitted during her winner’s press conference that she’s never tuned into live coverage of the Masters. The only highlight she could recall when prompted was Tiger Woods’ two-putt to win in 2019. She hadn’t been born yet for Woods’ other four green-jacket triumphs.
When it comes to golf history, Billy is the fanatic; Anna couldn’t care less. She’s focused on her own game, so much so that she not only just recently find out that this year’s ANWA was the third edition, she also didn’t realize the event existed until last year.
But make no mistake, Anna Davis has big aspirations in this game.
“I want to be the best in the world,” she said.
Her performance Saturday proves that she’s on the fast track.