Coming off her first career collegiate victory and her fourth career Big 10 Golfer of the Week award, Kate Smith joined a field of the best amateur golfers in the world and made a bold move by finishing a weather-shortened day one atop the leaderboard at 4-under par with a 3-stroke lead.
Prior to the tournament, Smith posted on Twitter how she was feeling lucky this week, a phrase she qualified with a Gary Player quote, “the harder you practice the luckier you get.”
Smith felt fortunate to have received an invitation to what she said was the biggest event she has played in her career.
“This is the biggest stage I’ve ever competed on,” she posted. “I just want to have fun this week. Why ruin a week by putting pressure on yourself?”
Smith birdied the par-4 second, par-3 sixth and birdied the turn, the par-5 ninth and the par-4 10th, to sit at 4-under after a par on hole No. 11.
Then the rains came leaving Smith paused prior to a putt on the 12th green.
Thick bands of precipitation on weather radar made for a quick decision by tournament organizers to suspend play for the day.
Smith led by three strokes with an early morning tee time Thursday to finish her round.
After a par at the twelfth, back-to-back bogeys and a double on No. 16 gave back the four strokes and Smith finished her round tied for fifth place overall at even par.
The invitation list to this tournament includes the reigning champions from the U.S. Women's Amateur, Ladies' British Open Amateur, Women's Asia-Pacific Amateur, Girls' British Open Amateur, U.S. Girls' Junior and Girls Junior PGA Champion.
Past champions of the Augusta National Women's Amateur within the last five years are also on the list prior to the invited players like Smith.
ESPN’s Charlotte Gibson featured Smith in her tournament coverage, a great story about how the Smith family shared the exclusive invite.
The first two rounds are played at Champions Retreat Golf Club with a practice round at Augusta National for all players Friday and the top 30 who make the cut compete there in Saturday’s final round April 3.
After completing her first round, Smith was back online with a personal social media upbeat update for her fans.
“On to the next round! Nothing but joy here in Augusta,” she said.
Only three golfers were under par in the second round.
Smith had four bogeys on the front nine and a double on No. 10 before reeling off six straight pars to sit at +6 on the 17th hole.
A three-putt and bogey at No. 17 was the difference between qualifying for Saturday and a looming playoff.
The cut was +8 (152). After a par five at 18, Smith (72-79-151) was 7-over, tied with Yu-Sang Hou, Amari Avery, Maja Stark and Lauren Hartlage to vie for one remaining playoff spot in a sudden death playoff.
Stark and Hartlage birdied their final holes to get into the playoff.
Smith faced a 140-yard approach shot on the par 4, 10th - the first playoff hole. She was among four golfers with a birdie putt - hers the longest of the four all around 15 to 20-feet. Hartlage faced a chip from short of the green and rolled past the hole.
Smith lagged her putt with perfect pace to just left of the hole for a tap in par. Avery also missed to set up Stark, who stepped up and drained her birdie putt eliminating all four golfers after Hou’s attempt drifted right.
Stark is a sophomore at Oklahoma State University from Skivarp, Sweden.
An emotional day here in Augusta, but what an experience! I have felt the support all the way from the Midwest. Thanks to everyone for following along throughout the day! ❤️— Kate Smith (@99kate_smith) April 2, 2021
Read more stories by Robert Williams here.