Players to Watch at the ANWA
Savannah Grewal, Emily Mahar and Ashley Lau are among the most intriguing stories in a stacked field
By Jordan Perez
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Savannah Grewal is all heart.
She proved that at the 2017 Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship, winning the Girls 14-15 Division even as her body was failing her at the pinnacle of junior golf. Powering through heart palpitations, Grewal won the driving contest at 248.5 yards. Grinning from ear to ear, the plucky Canadian lit up Golf Channel with her youthful glow. Sure, Grewal was happy to be the champion, but it was also a celebration of having conquered a frightening affliction.
Leading up to her star turn in Augusta, Grewal regularly endured heart palpitations. Her vision would go black, and she often struggled to breathe. “My heart would start racing at 240 beats per minute,” she says. “I didn’t know when it was going to happen, so I’d go to any golf tournament and kind of have that in the back of my mind.”
In 2017, Grewal was diagnosed with Supraventricular Tachycardia, an erratic heartbeat that affects the upper chambers of the heart. The typical range for SVT is 150 to 220 beats per minute. Being above that threshold added another layer of stress and abnormality.
Never mind her golf—Grewal just wanted to be healthy. Still, she persisted, spending hours on the range back home in Ontario. She was good enough to earn a spot on the Clemson women’s golf team. Coach Kelley Hester raves about Grewal’s strength. “Pound for pound, she hits it as far as any female I’ve seen,” Hester says.
Even so, Grewal struggled in her freshman year, and she opted for surgery in late 2020. Two months after a successful procedure, Grewal (below, center) was back on the golf course. With a free mind, and more stamina, her game was transformed in 2021. Now she is back at the site of her greatest triumph. Augusta National is a reminder of how far she has traveled.
Says Grewal, “I feel like I’ve been given a really good life.”
1-800-ANWA: The last invitees
The Gen Z kids at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur are rarely excited when their phone rings, but when the caller ID flashes “Augusta, GA,” that’s a different story.
A select group of young women got the call just two weeks before the event, as spots unexpectedly opened up. Rina Tatematsu, Emily Mahar, Caitlyn Macnab, Ashley Lau and Hsin-Yu Lu all had less time than the rest of the players in the field to process the moment, but they’re not complaining. Tatematsu (below) was notified of an opening while warming up for her first LPGA start in Thailand. That glee spilled over into an opening-round 69, and she went on to make the cut. “I was like, what?” she recalls. She remained flummoxed when making it Instagram official, writing only, “No words…See you soon Augusta!”
Many in the group got the phone call during regularly scheduled programming: college. Mahar welcomed the distraction in the middle of a practice round for the Clemson Invitational. Her head coach, Carol Robertson, dropped a few clues, and a phone call from Augusta National made it official. Her family immediately booked flights from Brisbane to watch her play. Because of Australia’s strict Covid protocols, this will be their first time together in 21/2 years. These tough times hardened Mahar as she emerged as a team leader, carrying Virginia Tech to its first two NCAA regionals and its first trip to the national tournament.
Lau got the call during Michigan’s stop at the ASU Invitational, just one week before the ANWA’s first practice round. With no hesitation, she booked a redeye, along with almost a dozen other fellow ANWA competitors. Lau may be sleep-deprived, but she’s riding extraordinary momentum: two wins, a runner-up and another top 10 in 2022.
She’s ready to play. The question is, Is Augusta National ready for her?