Sixteen-year-old Anna Davis burst onto the national women’s golf scene and simultaneously brought the bucket hat into current conversation when she won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April. And she’s kept her name – and her signature look – in the discussion since, making the cut in her first two LPGA tournament starts and preparing for her first major appearance this week at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open.
“I think I’ve learned a lot about my golf game and learned how the pros’ games are separated from amateurs’, and I see how it’s different,” the Southern California native told media Tuesday at Pine Needles Resort & Golf Club, site of the 77th USWO championship.
“They’re just a lot more consistent and they don’t make as many mistakes. I think that’s kind of a big thing that I’ve been working on, and just growing as a person in general.”
Davis is one of 31 amateurs in the field of 156 players this week, and she’ll take aim at a 55-year-old record dating back to 1967 when Catherine Lacoste, daughter of French tennis player Rene Lacoste and 1927 British Ladies Amateur champion Simone Thion de la Chaume, became the only amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open. Seven other amateurs – most recently Hye-Jin Choi in 2017 – have finished as runner(s)-up.
She’s one of 17 teenagers playing at Pine Needles, and she also boasts the rare distinction of playing left-handed despite being right-handed in her daily life.
“What I’ve learned from past experiences when you’re nervous and you’re worked up, you’re not going to play your best, and so that’s kind of something that I think about,” she shared. “It’s just like, ‘Okay, calm down, you’re going to play better if you’re calmed down.'”
It’s a pragmatic approach for the high school sophomore, who also revealed Tuesday that her now-famous accessory was acquired out of the same sensibility after she found herself sunburned to a crisp last summer. Davis was playing in the Girls Junior PGA Championship at the venerable Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, when her father, Bill Davis Sr., directed her to make the purchase.
“(My dad) saw that my face was burnt, so he was like, ‘You have to buy a bucket hat and put it on this week,'” recalled Davis, who began playing golf along with her twin brother, Billy, when she was just a toddler. “I played with a bucket hat and then it became a thing that week … and then I went to Augusta and on the last day, I was like, ‘I’ll wear a bucket hat today,’ and then it became a huge thing. I didn’t know it was happening. It was so funny.”
It also proved to be a bit of a lucky charm: Davis won at Valhalla by seven strokes, vaulting from No. 1,400 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking to No. 400 and earning her a trip to the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits (Wisconsin) as a member of the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team. At Augusta, sporting her dark hair in low ponytails topped with the white bucket hat, Davis carded a 3-under 69 on the final day to win by a shot.
Subsequently, the sponsor exemptions began to roll in for the 2021 first-team Rolex AJGA All-American, who finished T-70 in her first LPGA start at the Palos Verdes Championship in April and T-50 on the opposite coast in May at the Cognizant Founders Cup in Clifton, N.J. Those results, along with four top-four finishes in junior events in 2022 has propelled Davis to No. 25 in the rankings.
“I kind of see it as, ‘Yeah, I can make the cut now and I can beat these players,’ so I think I do have a good chance this week at making the cut,” she adds, “but I’m just out here to have fun.”
Part of the fun has included shoutouts from Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, and a personal well wishes from 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie West, who approached Davis on the practice range at Pine Needles to offer her congratulations to the teen. Davis also has enjoyed face time on the course with several of golf’s top stars, including world No. 2 Nelly Korda and her sister, No. 14 Jessica Korda, with whom she played a practice round on Tuesday, and with New Zealand’s world No. 3 Lydia Ko, with whom she played on Wednesday.
“If you told me a year ago that I’d be playing with Lydia Ko and the Korda sisters, I’d be like, ‘You’re crazy.’ That wouldn’t make any sense, but I think it’s super cool,” said Davis, who tees off Thursday at 2:35 p.m. ET with No. 1-ranked amateur and newly crowned NCAA champion Rose Zhang of Stanford, and Epson Tour player Lucy Li, who stole hearts as the ice-cream-loving 11-year-old in her first U.S. Open appearance in 2014.
“I think now it’s processed a little more, but I don’t know, it’s cool just being able to watch (the LPGA players) growing up and now playing with them and really seeing them in person and getting to know them,” said Davis. “It’s cool.”