Anna Davis takes aim at 55-year-old amateur record at 2022 U.S. Women’s Open

Anna Davis hits her tee shot on the second tee during the third round of the Cognizant Founders Cup.
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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.

RELATED: Annika Sorenstam enjoying the journey ahead of 77th U.S. Women’s Open

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.”

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2022 U.S. Women’s Open preview, how to watch, course details

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.