If there is a competitor feeling happier on life’s seemingly spontaneous and random merry-go-round entering this week’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur, University of Virginia senior Anna Redding would love to meet her
If there is a competitor feeling happier on life’s seemingly spontaneous and random merry-go-round entering this week’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur, University of Virginia senior Anna Redding would love to meet her.
Redding has plenty of reason to be in a joyful mood. After all, she is about to be part of golf history by competing in the groundbreaking, invitation-only women’s golf tournament that starts today and continues through April 6, with the final round being held at Augusta National Golf Club. To boot, Redding is still riding high after watching the Cavaliers’ men’s basketball team win two games last week to qualify for this weekend’s Final Four.
For Redding, the sense of anticipation of competing in the 72-player tournament is kid-on-Christmas-morning type stuff. The first and second rounds will be conducted at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans, Ga. Following the completion of 36 holes there, the field will be cut to the low 30 scorers, with a practice round set for Augusta National on Friday prior to Saturday’s final round.
“I am so excited. It’s an incredible honor to be a part of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, ” said Redding, speaking on Monday via mobile phone while riding with her parents to Georgia and between trading text messages and arranging practice rounds with friends in the field. “I am just going to take it all in. It is special. Very special.”
To appreciate Redding’s excitement, rewind to the second week of January. Redding’s invitation was delivered via 2nd Day Air to her parents’ home in Concord, N.C. Redding was on winter break in Florida at the time, but on her way back to school, she met her parents during a layover at Charlotte airport. She had instructions for her folks, who had the envelope in hand: Don’t open it until they all gathered together.
“I definitely had to be one to break the seal,” Redding said with a laugh.
Today, she is part of the event by being ranked high enough in the women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings and currently is No. 32 in the classification system (No. 12 among U.S. players). She is Virginia’s stroke average leader and is playing at the top of the Cavaliers’ lineup.
Last summer, Redding won the Carolinas Golf Association Women’s Match Play and Amateur Championship titles. She also advanced to the quarterfinals of the North & South Women’s Amateur and played in the Ladies’ British Open Amateur. Redding, a senior, captured her first collegiate victory at the Mary Fossum Invitational in the fall.
She enters this week’s event with an advantage that not many can claim — having played Augusta National before. In November 2014, Redding, then a senior in high school, played 27 holes at the sacred venue, touring the second nine twice. One of her best memories was hitting the par-3 12th hole in regulation both times.
Her father, Dr. Mark Redding, arranged the round through his friendship with Robert Chapman, who served as a committee chairman at Augusta National. Chapman led the Cup and Tee Marker committee that set up the course for the Masters. He died in August 2017. The occasion was so memorable that Anna’s voice cracks with emotion when talking about it.
Redding also played the par-3 course and tried to honor the pre-Masters tradition of skipping a ball across one of the layout’s ponds. Though unsuccessful, she’s hoping for another attempt this week.
That would require making the 36-hole cut and being back at Augusta National less than a week before the Masters starts. Redding, the possessor of a smooth, languid swing, knows that success will, in large part, be determined by the quality of her short game and course management.
It’s no accident that Redding has been working on shots around the green at U.Va.’s home layout, Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville, Va.
“That is where I spend most of my time,” Redding said. “Putting and everything around the greens at Augusta and Champions Retreat is definitely how you’re going to score, just like with any tournament, and getting a good practice session before the week.”
Her game plan might make Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett proud.
“For me personally, it will just be committing to each golf shot that is front of me and having the confidence in myself that I can hit that shot,” said Redding, who will be using an Augusta National caddie at the tournament. “That has been a little a bit of a struggle recently, but I need to believe in myself and know that I can do this and I can hit the golf shot in front of me. It’s just a golf shot. It’s just a game.”
Indeed, Redding is a ’Hoo with heart. As a high school senior at Cannon School in her hometown, Redding helped raise more than $20,000 to buy a neonatal incubator for Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya, where her dad has served as a visiting physician.
This week, the result notwithstanding, Redding is taking collection of all of her experiences as a collegian — on and off the course — noting that she wants to soak in the aura and record the happenings of the week both electronically and emotionally.
“I work with a sports psychologist, (Dr.) Bhrett McCabe, and one of his little phrases is, ‘Experience is knowledge.’ ” said Redding, whose goal is to play the LPGA Tour. She is planning on attending Q-school in the fall. “Playing around the world, getting to these stages, enjoying these days and gaining the knowledge of how I react, what I can do under pressure, is so important.”
For now, she’s hoping for short-term giddiness — a victory to start the weekend and a ’Hoos hoops title in Monday’s NCAA Championship game would certainly do the trick.
“That sounds wonderful,” Redding said.
Andrew Blair is a writer from Glen Allen, Va.