Four members of the South Carolina women’s golf team have been selected to compete in the 2021 Augusta National Women's Amateur tournament starting March 31.
The tournament is one of the most prestigious events for amateur players. The best of the best from all over the world compete throughout the year to qualify.
Freshman Paula Kirner, seniors Ana Pelaez and Pimnipa Panthong and sophomore Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, who is the No. 4 ranked golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, were all selected to compete in the tournament.
“It was a goal I had set up since last year,” Pelaez said. “It was a 'yes' moment. I made it.”
While Pelaez first received an invitation to the 2021 tournament, Kirner, Roussin-Bouchard and Panthong were all invited to the 2020 tournament, which was canceled due to COVID-19. Their invitations were carried over into the 2021 tournament.
“Last year, I prepared myself for two to three months for that event," Kirner said. "Then it got canceled, so it was quite a bummer, and I had to wait a year.”
That extra year of preparation was useful for them heading into the 2021 tournament. The gap gave them time to hone their skills and put them in the best position to succeed.
“I just kept practicing my own game," Panthong said. "Working on what I’m not good at, staying patient and working out more.”
Until the tournament, they will continue with their normal routine and play the spring season with the team, which starts on Feb. 14.
The golfers have high expectations for themselves heading into the tournament. They said they know they can achieve their goals if they relax and focus on the game.
“I want to win," Roussin-Bouchard said. "I’m just going to play my game and show what I can do.”
The tournament will be a change from being team-members to competing against each other.
“We know our teammates, but we also know what happens on the golf course stays on the golf course,” Pelaez said.
Even with their competitive personalities, they all said they want nothing but success for each other. They will be rooting for each other, and are thankful they all qualified because it makes the experience better.
“Having three of my teammates going to the same tournament makes it fun,” Pelaez said. “I really love it.”
The tournament's first 36 holes will take place on March 31 and April 1 at the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Then, the whole field will play a practice round at Augusta National on April 2.
The final round will take place at Augusta National on April 3, consisting of the top 30 golfers who made the cut.
Qualifying for Augusta is a big step in the right direction for the careers of each golfer. The thoughts of a lifelong achievement being fulfilled put a smile on the face of each golfer.
“It’s an incredible feeling just thinking about it, I’m flying, it makes me kind of dizzy,” Kirner said. “I will feel honored just to be in the clubhouse, and to win it, that’s just next level.”