Super Anna: Can’t-miss Davis arrives again in Augusta, this time a Tiger

Super Anna: Can’t-miss Davis arrives again in Augusta, this time a Tiger
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As Anna Davis describes it, she was in shambles. Her phone and laptop had both died in the middle of the night, and so there she was waking up on her own volition just before 6:30 a.m., almost 30 minutes after she was supposed to be at a mandatory workout with her Auburn teammates. Davis scrambled to get ready and rush the 15 minutes from her apartment to campus, arriving in the gym about 45 minutes late and earning herself some extra time on the assault bike.

“So, I now hold the record for latest to workouts,” Davis says with a smile.

Chances are that’s not the first record she breaks while in school.

The 17-year-old Davis, who turned 18 on March 17, arrived on the Plains shortly after the first of the year, enrolling early and joining a Tigers squad that was already one of the best in the country; the midseason addition of Davis only amplified this program’s expectations. The SoCal native’s Instagram handle, @superannadavis, is aptly chosen. Super Anna ascended to the pinnacle of junior golf by winning the Girls Junior PGA and Augusta National Women’s Amateur, both before her junior year of high school. She’s since been tabbed for several national teams, junior and amateur, and fared well in an extensive LPGA apprenticeship – eight starts, half of them majors, and four made cuts – before the start of her somewhat surprising foray into college golf.

“It’s fairly obvious to our team that a traveling spot has been taken by our new player,” Auburn head coach Melissa Luellen said back in February. Davis has now logged five starts for the Tigers, her most recent producing her best college finish to date, a T-2 at Georgia’s Liz Murphey Collegiate, and giving her a ton of momentum as she heads down U.S. 78 to Augusta for her third ANWA.

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 02: Anna Davis of the United States walks on the 15th hole during the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club on April 02, 2022 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

LUELLEN GIVES A LOT of credit to her assistant coach, Kim Hall, for landing Davis as it was Hall who, of the two, first watched Davis play. Hall can instantly recall much from that introduction. It was at the 2021 AJGA Rolex Girls Junior Championship at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia, site of this year’s Solheim Cup. Hall and her coaching peers were excited to recruit in person for the first big event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Davis was among the names on Hall’s Class of 2024 list, though until then, she was nothing but a set of scores.

That changed when Hall caught up to Davis, with her chill vibe and low-slung Titleist bag, and saw her preparing to play a 40-yard wedge shot.

“Just the way she went about stalking the wedge shot, and her little practice swings, and she hit like a low checker,” Hall remembers, “and she’s 14 or 15, and I’m like, that was on purpose. I’m going to keep watching this girl.”

Later that year, Davis lapped the field at the Girls Junior PGA, finishing seven shots clear of her competition, which included the likes of Meghan Ganne, Amari Avery and Alexa Pano, already an LPGA winner and whom Davis calls her favorite professional golfer (OK, so they’re best friends). That victory got her into the Augusta National Women’s Amateur that next April, and after a final-round 69 at ANGC – and a late collapse by LSU’s Latanna Stone – Davis secured her life-changing win by a shot over Stone and Ingrid Lindblad, Stone’s college teammate and the current top-ranked amateur.

“I can’t even fathom what just happened,” Davis said shortly after her triumph. “It all happened very quickly.”

And she was off. Four weeks later, Davis teed it up in the LPGA’s Palos Verdes Championship, her first pro event, and made the cut. She did the same two weeks after that, at the Cognizant Founders Cup. In total, she played seven pro tournaments, three of them majors, in 20 weeks while missing just two weekends.

That’s when Luellen thought to herself, This girl’s going to the tour. She wasn’t alone.

But Davis says she only flirted with the idea of eschewing college golf. The spotlight on her during those pro starts was too much at times. “It was hard to play knowing everyone was watching my score,” Davis said. And the challenge of making a cut was foreign to a teenager who hadn’t even played in a U.S. Women’s Amateur yet (she debuted in that championship last summer and advanced to the quarterfinals). “Playing under pressure, just trying to make a cut in an LPGA event, it was hard to handle,” Davis said.

And so, her mind was made: Davis was going to college.

The only question was, where?

Junior Ryder Cup 2023

Anna Davis and Billy Davis during the first day of the Junior Ryder Cup 2023 at the National Golf. Sutri (Italy), September 26th, 2023 (Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

THE FIRST VIDEO CALL that Luellen ever had with Davis didn’t go well. Davis was on vacation with her family in the mountains, and the connection was spotty at best.

“Every word was broken, the video kept freezing,” Luellen described.

Added Davis, laughing now about the less-than-ideal icebreaker: “I was really giving off the impression that I wanted nothing to do with college.”

The Tigers coaches, though, kept in touch, and one day Davis, whose twin brother Billy was visiting Auburn, texted them and asked if she could come, too. While she was also strongly considering LSU, there was just something about Auburn.

“I didn’t want to leave,” Davis said of her visit, “and to me, that was a sign.”

When Billy verbally committed to Nick Clinard and the Auburn men’s team, it made Davis’ decision even easier. The twins loved the idea of going to the same school. Some of Davis’ fondest golf memories are with her brother; they would get out of middle school at 3 p.m. on weekdays and rush to the golf course. If they weren’t hitting balls and chatting about life while facing each other on the range (Billy is righty, Anna lefty), they were duking it out on the course.

“By the 12th hole, somebody was crying,” Anna said, adding, while smiling, that it was usually Billy.

Billy won’t arrive at Auburn until the fall, but when he does, he’ll have Anna there to show him the ropes. Luellen was impressed with how seamless Davis has transitioned to college, and not just from a golf perspective, since arriving for her first semester of classes, which began Jan. 10. Davis bought her first car, a brand-new Toyota RAV-4, and breezed through several tasks, from registration to outfitting her apartment. She’s already crammed for her first test, and the comms major reckons she passed.

Of course, none of that is the least bit surprising for a girl who often traveled alone to junior events.

“Everything she has to get done, she does with little stress and ease,” Luellen says. “She’s doing very well in school, she’s great with the team, she’s smiling and laughing every day. She’s a happy kid.”

And a little weird, Anna admits. While known for her stoic and usually quiet demeanor inside the ropes, Davis, who goes by Anna D to avoid confusion with the original Anna (senior Anna Foster), shocked her teammates on a three-day team retreat to the Bahamas in mid-January by quickly coming out of her shell.

“I think I come off kind of shy,” Davis said, “but in reality, I’m pretty social and more outgoing than I let on.”

Added Luellen: “When you get to know her, it’s like, Katy, bar the door; she’s just so much fun. The girls realize that Anna’s a great player, but what they’re learning is she’s a great teammate, too.”

Since Davis has slotted into the lineup, Auburn has risen from No. 17 to No. 10 in the national rankings while not finishing worse than fourth and successfully defending its team title at the Liz Murphey. Davis hasn’t dominated like other recent freshmen, most notably Rose Zhang, Amari Avery and Rachel Heck. But she did enter her last start ranked No. 81 nationally and with an adjusted scoring average of 70.5, third on her team. Her T-8 in a loaded Darius Rucker field was a preview of what she could do on a regular basis; her T-39 at the Valspar Augusta Invitational proved why she came to school in the first place.

“She’s obviously plenty talented to win any college event,” Hall said. “Just a couple swings or putts every tournament it seems like where it kind of kills her momentum a little bit. She’s so consistent, can make a lot of birdies, has a great short game.

“Once she doesn’t have those couple snafus, she’s going to win.”

Augusta National Women's Amateur - Final Round

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 02: Anna Davis of the United States reacts on the 16th green during the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club on April 02, 2022 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

ON A SCALE OF 1 to 10, Davis estimates her annoyance level is at “about a 7” when it comes to people bringing up bucket hats. Not that she hasn’t brought most of the attention on herself. She donned the full-brimmed headwear – a white bucket with two navy stripes and a tiny seahorse logo – in the final round of her Augusta National win, and she continued to embrace the look for a few events.

“I did lean into the bucket hat thing,” Davis concedes with a laugh.

“But I know people who wear [a bucket hat] every day, and it’s just not me,” Davis added.

What is her is the pearl necklace she inherited from her mother (and, yes, she got them before she moved to the South). She wears a couple thin rings on her fingers, too. Just not earrings, but only because her ears aren’t pierced.

In her golf bag is the Scotty Cameron blade putter that she’s used forever, and her trusty set of Titleist MB irons; she can’t remember the last time she’s used cavity-backs.

“She’s truly an artist,” Luellen says.

Which is why Luellen is hesitant to put too many numbers in front of Davis. Sure, she’d love to see Davis hit more high cuts – “She’s hinted at it a few times,” Davis chuckles – but the high slinger that Davis loves to hit usually gets the job done, even at a right-to-left paradise like Augusta National.

“She just has such a great feel for her golf swing,” Luellen said, “but I do think that some understanding of shot shaping and ball flights, and greater understanding of cause and effect of things, over time, will really help her.”

So, too, will more high-pressure situations against the best amateurs in the world.

A few decades ago, another San Diego-area lefty, Phil Mickelson, had just won a PGA Tour event as an amateur when he surprised many by returning to Arizona State. When later asked why he stayed in college for four years, Mickelson explained that his competitors in amateur golf would be many of his competitors on Tour, and he wanted to be able to stand on the first tee as a pro, look into the eyes of those same opponents, and know that he beat them for four years in college.

For Davis, it’s a similar thought process: “Mentally, that’s what separates an amateur from a professional. Being able to step up there on the first tee and be confident, and be committed to whatever shot you’re playing on every shot…

“There’s no reason to go out on the LPGA if I can’t beat these girls yet.”

Davis’ next test begins Wednesday at Champions Retreat, another big ballpark and site of the first 36 holes of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. A year ago, Davis failed to make it to the final round at ANGC, missing the cut while also receiving a pair of two-shot penalties for twice lifting and cleaning her ball in the rough.

Perhaps it says something about Davis the competitor that when it comes to the ANWA, as much as she hates to admit, she thinks more about last year’s MC than the tournament that “changed my life.”

“I really want to play well this year, get that bad taste out of my mouth and be in contention on Saturday,” Davis said.

Whether she becomes the first multiple champion remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain:

She won’t be late to the tee.

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