Meet the 16-year-old who is tied for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur lead

EVANS, Ga. – At 16 years old, Anna Davis is one of the youngest players in the field at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She feels like it, too.

“Usually when I go to events, I know the people who are playing, and I don’t know a lot of the girls here,” Davis said. “So, I kind of feel like an underdog.”

Considering Davis’ resumé – a seven-shot victory at last year’s Girls Junior PGA, reigning first-team AJGA All-American, Junior Solheim Cupper, five straight top-4 finishes in junior events – it’s not often that she is overlooked. The last time Davis hasn’t been among the favorites at a tournament, she says, was almost a year ago, at the AJGA’s Heather Farr Classic last April.

How did she fare that week? She won.

“When you’re the underdog, there’s not as much pressure to play super well,” Davis said.

No wonder she played, well, super on Wednesday at Champions Retreat. Competing in the shadows of amateur stars like Rose Zhang, Rachel Heck and Ingrid Lindblad, the teenager from Spring Valley, California, beat all but one player on Wednesday, firing an opening-round, 2-under 70 to share the lead with Italy’s Benedetta Moorish, a sophomore at Alabama.

Normally a gifted ball-striker, on this day Davis shined around the greens. With firm putting surfaces making strong GIR performances difficult, Davis scrambled often and well, carding just one bogey, at the par-4 15th hole.

Highlights: Early first round of Augusta National Women’s Am

Full-field scores from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur

There was also a little bit of luck involved, of course, as her chip on the par-5 18th hole was struck a little thin but hit the flatstick, resulting in a tap-in birdie to close.

“Good thing the hole was there,” Davis quipped.

Her twin brother, Billy, was thinking the same thing. Billy Davis – also an accomplished junior player, who learned the game alongside his sister di lui when they were “just of out their walkers” – was watching from the gallery. Anna says she’ll frequently get a snarky remark or two out of her brother di lei during rounds. “I’ll like hit a bad shot, and he’ll go, ‘Ooh, that was a good one,’” she said.

But as his sister stood in front of the cameras after a skillful opening display, Billy couldn’t help but give Anna her due.

“She’s pretty inspiring actually,” Billy said. “The way she plays, the way she handles herself on and off the course; she she handles herself like she’s a grownup. “

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While Anna may be short in the tooth as it relates to this field, she’s mature beyond her years. Yes, she still considers herself a “stereotypical 16-year-old,” who doesn’t own a driver’s license, loves lunches with friends and spends too much time on her phone. But there’s also a reason Billy calls her his “older sister di lei.”

Anna plays the game like a seasoned vet, with cleverness and confidence. She’s serious about her craft di lei, too, recently switching to online classes so that she can practice more. Asked hypothetically what she’d serve at the Masters Champions Dinner, she responded: steak and potatoes.

And her independence is arguably unmatched. She isn’t even old enough to legally talk with college coaches (she remains uncommitted), yet for much of the past year, she’s traveled to tournaments by herself or with friends.

“A lot of people look at that and they’re like, ‘Your parents are letting you travel alone? That’s a little weird, ‘”Anna said. “I think I’m a little mature for my age, and I know how to handle things.”

Her solo trips have taught her a lot, but mostly she’s learned to, in her words, “pay a little more attention to what’s actually going on around me because I don’t have my parent there holding my hand.”

That translated well to the golf course on Wednesday, as Anna noticed her playing competitors hitting their tee balls through the wind on the par-3 17th hole. Instead of staying in her own little world and keeping 6-iron in hand, Anna went back to her bag and switched to a 7-iron.

The result: a stress-free par – and a clap from her brother.

“She hit it great, drove it great,” Billy said. “If her speed control di lei on the greens is good and she makes a few more putts, I definitely think she has a chance.”

Anna, sitting at No. 100 in the world amateur rankings, began the week with no expectations except only to have fun.

Now, though, she’s put both herself in a position to win and the rest of this talented field on notice.

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