Brighton’s Allyson Geer-Park, a two-time Michigan Women’s Amateur champion and a star for Michigan State University, returned home from playing in the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur and called it a really cool and wonderful experience.
“I learned so much just being part of it,” she said. “I think Augusta National being part of the tournament does a lot for women’s golf. It’s another door open that wasn’t open before.”
Geer-Park missed the 36-hole cut in the historic 54-hole tournament with rounds of 74 and 76, and thus was limited to just a practice round on the Augusta National course on the Friday before the final round was played on the famous stage.
“I did play 1-under through Amen Corner, and I birdied 13, which is every bit as beautiful as anyone can imagine,” she said. “I think that’s my favorite hole now, especially with the birdie. I hit a wedge in there to about two feet.”
She said she would have liked to have played better golf for the week, but nothing about the week disappointed the only Michigan player in the field; a field invited based on national and international rankings and accomplishments much like the field for the Masters Tournament.
“It was a great experience to compete with the women in the field and playing the Augusta National course was really a surreal experience,” she said. “Everyone there made you feel very special and though I felt I knew a lot about the golf course, after playing it I have a different, I guess respect for it. It was every bit as beautiful as people say, and I remember thinking how fun of a golf course it is as I was playing it. It's known for being hard, extravagant and beautiful, but it wasn't like a course that was so hard you would only want to play once. I remember thinking, 'I'd love to play this course every day.' It was very special. I wasn’t expecting to love the course as much as I did.”
The Saturday before the Masters final round put an exclamation point on the week. Jennifer Kupcho, the top-ranked amateur in the world and reigning NCAA champion from Wake Forest, won a back-nine duel with Maria Fassi of Mexico and the University of Arkansas by going 5-under in the final six holes. Kupcho shot a final 67 for a four-shot win and wowed a national television audience and even members of Augusta National.
“I think to win at Augusta National, just to get to walk the fairways and walk up 18 with as many fans as there were, it’s an experience like none other,” Kupcho told the media afterward.
She joined Ben Crenshaw, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Nicklaus as the only players to win both the NCAA individual championship and a tournament at Augusta National.
Geer-Park said the final round show and the tournament will have impact.
“I think it proved that women's golf can be very entertaining,” she said. “It was incredible to watch as a spectator on Saturday and to know that I had been a player in the tournament. Seeing the impact and the pure joy on the faces of the players and the crowd was just so cool. I think it proved to the whole world how well women can play and that we should have the opportunity to play. I think it might have shocked the golf world a little. Women can bring in viewers and crowds and put on an incredible show.”
Geer-Park also met some of her golf heroines and posed for a keepsake picture with legend Annika Sorenstam.
“I’m so appreciative I had the opportunity, and at the same time being part of it once makes me even more inspired to reach my goals in golf,” she said. “It felt right being a part of it.”
-Greg Johnson, email@example.com