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Built for the moment, Lottie Woad delivers championship finish at Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Lottie Woad isn’t one to boast.

When her subtle double-breaker from 15 feet dropped for birdie on Augusta National’s 18th green, officially crowning the 20-year-old Englishwoman as the fifth champion of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Woad’s celebratory fist pump barely cleared her waist.

“That’s probably the most you’ll get out of me,” Woad joked afterward.

But make no mistake, Woad lives for these moments.

With the unique nature of this championship demanding that Woad sleep on her two-shot lead for two nights – competitors play their practice round at the home of the Masters after the first 36 holes of competition at nearby Champions Retreat – there was plenty of time for anxiety to build. Woad proved herself impervious, shaking off a slow start, then fending off a hot-charging Bailey Shoemaker and saving her best for last – three birdies in her final four holes – to edge Shoemaker by a single shot and capture what has quickly become the preeminent crown in women’s amateur golf.

“When she gets herself under pressure, she’s one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Amy Bond, Woad’s head coach at Florida State University.

Woad, ranked fourth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, doesn’t boast; she digs.

Bond first saw Woad’s golf swing not on a golf course but in Woad’s backyard in Farnham, England, southwest of London – and through a phone screen. It was during the height of the pandemic, and Woad, stuck in quarantine, set up a net and launched ball after ball into it. People would ask Bond what she gathered, technically, from Woad’s social-media posts, to which she’d reply, “Nothing. I saw it fly 15 feet.”

“But the fact that she was out there every single day,” Bond added, “she never let the pandemic ruin her dream.”

A closer look at the latest winner of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Woad won the British Girls’ Amateur just weeks before starting college. Bond was in crutches that week as she witnessed Woad storm through the field at Carnoustie, eventually waxing current world No. 7 amateur Cayetana Fernandez Garcia-Poggio in the match-play final, 7 and 6.

When she arrived on campus in Tallahassee, Florida, Woad immediately familiarized herself with the team’s practice facility at Seminole Legacy Club. To this day, Woad has never attended a college football game, instead spending her Saturdays in the fall – and most other days – perfecting her craft. Woad doesn’t have a car, so sometimes she catches an Uber to the club. She packs her lunch – usually a ham or turkey sandwich with cheese, no condiments, some potato chips and water – and punches out each day with plenty of overtime.

Very rarely does Woad stray from her routine, whether in golf or school (she’s a straight-A student). She is still only a member at her childhood club, Farnham Golf Club, located just outside of London. That’s where Woad’s only swing coach, Luke Bone, is the teaching pro, and it was Bone who never wanted his student to lose her unorthodox action, which Woad’s had since she took up the game seriously at age 7 – inside of plane on the backswing, outside into the ball.

“That’s her pattern,” said Bone, who was in Augusta this week. “The only things that matter is what the ball does and what the club tells it.”

The result is one of the premier ball-strikers in women’s amateur golf.

“You can out-hit a golf course, or you could out-putt it,” said Steven Robinson, England’s national team coach and Woad’s ANWA caddie, “and she can out-hit it.”

Robinson instilled in Woad early in her teens the importance of creating game plans, for her practice and tournament rounds. “She’s got her practices mapped out basically to the minute,” Bond says. Woad’s obsessiveness for being prepared has bled into everything, even last month’s par-3 competition at Seminole Legacy in which she teamed with a freshman on FSU’s men’s team to beat a tee sheet that included LPGA player Frida Kinhult and European Ryder Cupper Ludvig Åberg.

Takeaways from Augusta National Women's Amateur
Steve Burkowski and Paige Mackenzie share their biggest takeaways from the Augusta National Women's Amateur, exploring Bailey Shoemaker's future, Lottie Woad's day and more.

Her challenge Saturday at Augusta National was infinitely more demanding. The plan revolved around managing pins, knowing when to be below the hole and when to be above it. Of course, Woad first needed to find fairways, so she could tap into her aggressiveness and create birdie opportunities.

On Saturday, in favorable conditions that produced nine under-par rounds (out of 35), Woad missed one green.

It almost wasn’t good enough.

Five groups ahead of the final pairing of Woad and 16-year-old Gianna Clemente was Shoemaker, a highly recruited freshman from USC who had played a full summer on the Epson Tour before even starting school. Shoemaker, 19, didn’t card a bogey as she fired the lowest round in championship history at Augusta National, a 6-under 66 that got her in the clubhouse at 7 under and posted just as Woad was three-putting the par-5 13th, nearly rolling her birdie putt into the creek, to back up to 5 under.

At that moment, Shoemaker allowed herself to think, ever so slightly, about lifting that silver trophy: “It would just mean the world,” she said.

Back on the 14th tee, Woad was receiving a pep talk from Robinson. “Nothing that you can print,” Robinson said when asked to reveal what he said.

While Shoemaker strutted to the tournament practice area to await her fate, Woad was dodging another potential bogey. For the second straight day, she clipped a tree with her drive at the par-4 14th. Her approach shot, with hybrid from about 215 yards away, went long, and Woad left herself 10 feet to keep her winning hopes alive.

“If I’d gone three back at that point, it would have been pretty difficult to get that back,” said Woad, who considers putting the weakest part of her game, though she had worked extensively on the greens in the weeks leading into this edition.

Woad sank the par-saver and then glanced up at the large, white scoreboard. She was still within two strokes, “and I knew there’s chances every hole coming in,” Woad said.

Calmed by Robinson and the breathing exercises she learned from her sports psychologist, Woad adjusted to her high adrenaline – “I was hitting the ball, specifically my irons, really far,” she said – and orchestrated the greatest comeback in this championship’s young history.

She wedged from 90 yards to 15 feet on No. 15. Birdie.

Two holes later, at the par-4 17th, she landed another wedge shot 12 feet away. Another birdie.

(Woad also nearly birdied the par-3 16th, her first putt from 15 feet finishing about 6 inches behind the hole.)

As Woad stuck her 9-iron from 130 yards to 15 feet on the par-4 finishing hole and approached a life-changing birdie putt, Shoemaker was rolling putts of her own on the practice green, out of earshot. Shoemaker’s dad, Bob, and USC head coach Justin Silverstein were monitoring Woad’s finish from inside a small, white hut that bisects the green and driving-range portion of the practice grounds.

Once Woad put the exclamation point on her closing 3-under 69 – her third under-par score in as many rounds this week – Bob Shoemaker stepped outside to break the disappointing news.

“She made it,” he told his daughter before putting his arm around her.

“Especially under pressure, knowing she had to do it, that’s amazing … super clutch,” Bailey Shoemaker said.

A few hundred yards away, the patrons, which included Woad’s 85-year-old grandmother, Marian, were showering Woad with roars and applause.

The unassuming Seminole, who has what Bone calls the “heart of a lion,” could only smile.

“She’s a humble kid,” Bond said. “As proud as she is of herself, she doesn’t show too much.”

Added Woad: “I was hoping it was going to be like a nice, stress-free day, but it was far from that. In the end, it’s a cooler way to finish.”

Woad’s victory earns her invites into four of the five women’s major championships this year, starting with the Chevron Championship, which is scheduled to begin two Thursdays from now. The Chevron dates, however, overlap with the ACC Championship, so Woad, who leads the No. 19-ranked Seminoles with six top-8 finishes this season, has a decision to make.

Woad said she’d enjoy this one first.

“I don’t want to rush anything,” Woad said.

Who could blame her? This is the kind of defining moment she’s worked tirelessly for.

“This is one for the memory banks,” Robinson said. “And what great drama, what great theater for the women’s game. Augusta will love that finish, won’t they? They’re going to love that finish.”