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An ANWA invitation is iconic: For Kate Smith it's a framer and for Kaitlyn Papp, a keepsake


Kate Smith’s spirits were low on Nov. 15 as she started the drive home from a tournament in Waco, Texas, where she felt like she’d “played terribly.” On the way home, she got an email from Augusta National indicating she was in consideration for the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Is there a quicker mood-lifter?

“I don’t really feel like Augusta National material right now,” Smith remembered thinking to herself, “but that would be nice.”

Two months later, the iconic ANWA invitation was laying on her doorstep back home in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Smith spent the early part of this week quarantining at the University of Nebraska so she could be cleared to start the spring season.

Smith got the email from UPS that the package was there and sent her mom straight home from work (no trip to the grocery store) to check it out – meanwhile “hoping someone didn’t, like, buy me a t-shirt.”

More: Kate Smith has embarked on a golf course logo refresh project

Marjery Smith confirmed it was the coveted invitation without breaking the seal.

“She paid an arm and a leg to overnight it,” Kate Smith said. “It was so cool to have it in my hands. I think I’ve teared up multiple times.”

The past few months have brought so many firsts for Smith in her fifth year at Nebraska. She’ll be the first Husker to compete at the ANWA. Knowing that players who accepted entry into the 2020 ANWA – which ultimately was canceled because of COVID – would be invited again for 2021, she tried not to get her hopes up or pay too much attention to the World Amateur Golf Ranking, on which a large percentage of the 72 invitations are based.

A handful of players in that 2020 field have since turned professional, leaving limited spots for new invitees like Smith.

Smith remembers exactly the exactly the spot where she was sitting – studying – on April 4, 2018, when Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley announced the creation of the ANWA. She told her whole family about it, knowing she’d only have a few more years of amateur golf.

“It meant more to me than I thought, sub-consciously,” she said. “I think I put the pedal to the metal in my competition schedule and practice schedule.”

Eventually, that iconic invitation will be a framer. For now, it’s a motivator.

“I think for the next couple months it’s going to be on my bedside or right front and center in my apartment,” she said. “What more motivation to work hard than seeing that every morning?”

Kaitlyn Papp also knows it’s something you keep in a safe place. Her invitation to the inaugural 2019 ANWA has been squirreled away into a golf mementos box her mom Julie keeps.

Last year, Papp was among the small number of players who had a choice between playing the ANWA and playing the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, California. Papp, who finished fifth at the inaugural ANWA, chose the LPGA major.

Papp, who made big headlines in December with a top-10 finish at the U.S. Women’s Open, has secured a return trip for 2021. She still remembers the feeling of knowing she’d play ANWA for the first time.

“My family and I definitely got the chills when the first invite came in the mail just because it was a new experience for everyone, the inaugural event in 2019,” she said. “It was just a huge honor to be among the first women competing at Augusta National.”

Papp brought home several mementos from Augusta in 2019 that haven’t quite made their way to the memory box. Every time she opens her closet, she sees a t-shirt and a pullover with the ANWA logo. Sometimes she just scrolls through pictures from that week on her phone. Her favorite is a video – she’s not sure where it came from – of the shot she hit into No. 12, complete with shot-tracer and all. She made par on that hole on her way to a final-round 74 at Augusta National. Papp particularly likes to watch the reaction of her dad Tony, who was caddying for her that day.

As a returner, put Papp on the short list of favorites.

“I think the biggest advantage is already playing both of those courses multiple times so I kind of know what to expect and what to work on leading up to the tournament,” Papp said when asked where she might have an edge in April. “Just knowing that really it’s a pretty big cut before the final round so you just have to try to play steady golf and just not make too many mistakes out there so you keep yourself in contention and are playing Augusta in the final round.”

Here are a few more players who displayed ANWA invitations on social media late this week:

Addie Baggarly is a senior at the University of Florida, and will also be a new addition to the 2021 field.

Ashley Gilliam, who plays for Mississippi State, contributes to the Tennessee presence.

After a standout fall season, Brooke Matthews has also played her way in as a first-time ANWA participant.

Lily May Humphreys, a Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cupper, returns in 2021.

Rachel Heck’s dog made a cameo in her announcement.

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