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ANWA: Inside the Chairman’s Dinner

The scoop on the servings and the scene from a special evening at Augusta National
By Jordan Perez

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The group of young women giggle in the shuttle. Each clutches an iPhone or a disposable camera, if not both. (These will be used on the drive to and from but not once they reach their destination.) The journey to the Tuesday night chairman’s dinner is one of the most suspenseful moments of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Squeezed together and dressed to the nines, the players can feel, maybe for the first time, the majesty of Augusta National.

“It was my first time walking on the grounds,” says Anna Davis, 16, recalling Tuesday’s dinner as a motivational boost. “To be able to play out there and be in that environment? Yeah.”

The attire ranges from classic black dresses to long floral silhouettes. High heels are common, though Amari Avery (below, right) went with low-top Jordans. For players accustomed to wearing their hair in ponytails, crammed under hats, this is a night to let the curls and waves flow.

Once the players pile into the shuttle at their designated hotel, there’s plenty of chatter among old friends from junior golf, as well as excitement of making new connections. Things get quiet once the shuttles turn onto Magnolia Lane.

“I think any time going down Magnolia Lane, you’re going to have goosebumps,” says Anna Morgan. The reality beats the Instagram videos they’ve glimpsed through the years. All the vets agree: It doesn’t get old. For those who most likely are playing in their last ANWA, like Oregon State senior Ellie Slama, soaking in that entrance is the priority of the night.

Stepping out of the shuttle reveals a green carpet through the clubhouse—Michigan’s Hailey Borja called the walk a “dream come true.” Little history lessons ensue, as the players peruse the trophy cases accented with memorabilia from great Masters moments as well as a replica of the trophy. Then the players shuffle outside to mingle with members, all of them turned out in green jackets. “You learn they’re normal people with day jobs, except they’re members of Augusta,” says Annabell Fuller, a three-time ANWA invitee.

Next comes another highlight: a three-course meal prepared by Augusta National’s in-house chefs. Although there’s no influence from the defending champion, returnees agree the club’s selections seem to get better each year. The seating is assigned, with players mixed among members and sponsors. Borja, who is normally seafood avoidant, couldn’t resist and allowed the crab cocktail appetizer to convert her palate. The silverware is embossed with the iconic Masters logo.

Chairman Fred Ridley delivers a welcoming speech, intentionally off the cuff. He never fails to mention that one of the first things he wanted to do in his role as chairman was bring a women’s event to Augusta National, highlighting his daughters as inspiration.

And what’s it like to dine next to Chairman Ridley himself? Pretty fun, according to Fuller, who felt jitters upon learning her seat assignment. But they wound up bonding over their shared roots at the University of Florida in a gator congregation.

A video plays, reminiscing on the inaugural year of ANWA and the ensuing triumphs and finale. For a tournament just past its infancy, players receive a gentle reminder of the empowering years behind them.

Dinner is served: bacon-wrapped filet mignon and blackened salmon, with sides of potato pave (which, per Google recipes, can take hours to bake), garnished with romanesco and flavored in parsley puree and red wine sauce. Asked what their favorite part of the meal was, most players voted for the filet. Then it’s time for dessert: vanilla crème brûlée paired with fresh berries. 

It’s an aristocratic affair accented with innocent, eager smiles, free of the angst that will come with the bogeys that are sure to follow. For all 72 young women in attendance, the moments will live not on social media but somewhere more vivid: their memories.

1 thought on “ANWA: Inside the Chairman’s Dinner”

  1. Great story, capturing the wonder and thrill these competitors enjoyed on what had to be a most memorable evening, and a dream come true for many.

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