“It’s an experience unlike any other.”
Providing a unique spin on the slogan of “a tradition unlike any other” that is the de facto motto of the Masters Tournament, Clemson golfer Alice Hewson recently staked her claim as one who has experienced the unparalleled strolls along the azalea-aligned fairways at the Augusta National Golf Club, and with that incomparable experience came a groundbreaking milestone. Hewson, the senior leader of the Clemson women’s golf team, became one of the first females to play a competitive round at the prestigious golf course that plays host to the Masters as part of the first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur golf tournament last month.
“It was an incredible opportunity that I honestly never thought would be possible growing up,” Hewson said of the memorable experience. “To be one of the first 30 women to ever play a competitive round at Augusta, I’m never going to have that experience again.”
Due to her world ranking, Hewson, who is currently the 25th-ranked amateur female golfer in the world, received an invitation to take part in the groundbreaking event in Augusta, Georgia, and was keen to accept. The decision to participate was a no-brainer for Hewson, as she was granted the opportunity to be a part of history, with the event marking the proverbial shattering of the glass ceiling at a golf landmark that had long been competitively exclusive to men.
Sharing her thoughts about what the tournament represents for women’s golf at large, Hewson said, “I think it’s a huge step in the right direction. It’s a big deal for Augusta National to have extended those invitations, and it’s a great sign for what’s still to come in women’s golf.”
The tournament field was composed of 72 of the top amateur female golfers from around the world, and the 54-hole stroke play event that spanned four days consisted of two rounds at the nearby Champions Retreat course, an ensuing practice round at Augusta National and a final round at golf’s premiere venue for the 30 competitors who made the cut. Hewson shot a four-over-par in the opening round of play and responded with an impeccable three-under 69 in the second round, which resulted in her making the cut and earning the right to play for the tournament title at Augusta National.
Even in the midst of the intense competition with many of her collegiate peers, Hewson was in awe of the surreal experience, as her very first visit to Augusta National coincided with the beginning of a new era in women’s golf that she happened to be at the epicenter of. Hewson, a native of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, in England, grew up with her eyes glued to the television for four days in April, never in her wildest dreams thinking that she would one day have the opportunity to compete on the lush greens in Augusta for four days in April herself.
The magnitude of the situation did not dawn on Hewson until the practice round on the day prior to the nationally televised final round at Augusta National. Supported by her family members who made the trip across the pond for the monumental event, as well as the multitudes of passionate Clemson fans in attendance, Hewson felt a sense of pride when she became the first English woman to ever play a round of golf at the home of the Masters. She did not shy away from the moment, with the shining star of the Clemson women’s golf program shooting an even-par score of 72 over the course of the final 18 holes to finish at one-over-par, which was good for a 10th-place finish.
Looking back on the grandeur of the final round, Hewson fondly recalled, “The ‘Augusta Roar’ that you always hear about is a real thing. The support was amazing the whole time. It was a mind-blowing experience.”
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur brought with it more than just high-level competition for the participants, as the experience was chock-full of fun and inspirational experiences that made Hewson’s week in Augusta unforgettable. On top of a behind-the-scenes tour of SRP Park, the home of the aptly named Minor League Baseball team the Augusta GreenJackets, which included a light-hearted exhibition baseball game that the golfers took part in, the tournament provided the competitors with the golf networking opportunity of a lifetime. A panel consisting of golfing icons Nancy Lopez, Lorena Ochoa, Se-ri Pak and Annika Sörenstam offered sage advice on all things golf-related, which made quite an impact on Hewson.
“That’s an experience that I couldn’t get anywhere else,” Hewson said about the talk given by the star-studded panel. “It was great to be able to talk to all of them, and it showed the importance in the golf community to giving back and helping other golfers learn and grow.”
Looking to build off her top-10 finish in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Hewson is planning to turn pro following the conclusion of her senior campaign with the Tigers and is slated to join the LPGA Tour this summer. Hewson’s golf career has essentially only just begun, but her choice to attend Clemson University will always endure as an integral stepping stone in that journey.
“Clemson was the perfect fit for me,” Hewson said while discussing what factored into her opting to become a Tiger. “I fell in love the moment that I stepped on campus.”
The love that Hewson has for Clemson has certainly not gone unrequited, as eviced by the endless support that she received from the Clemson family while competing in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Hewson’s favorite moment of her Augusta excursion came in the form of a clutch putt from the green at the 15th hole in the final round, with a perfect read on a tricky shot sending the adoring crowd into a frenzy and reminding Hewson of just how far that she has come since her golf-enthused father enrolled her in golf lessons when she was six years old. Moreover, that moment of pure adulation represented the bevy of imperfections that Hewson has experienced throughout her golf journey and how those imperfections make special moments like holing a difficult putt at Augusta National all the more meaningful.
“You can’t be perfect at golf,” Hewson said. “You can always hit more fairways, you can always hit more greens and you can always hole more putts. I’m always striving to improve in some way.”
Dedicated to her craft, Hewson is constantly searching for ways to perfect her golf game. Golfing perfection may indeed be unattainable but playing a round at Augusta National is as close to perfection as life on the links can be. Needless to say, Hewson will cherish that special opportunity for the rest of her life, and the 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur will forever be remembered by Hewson and the rest of the golfing world as a historic event or, as Hewson would describe it, an experience unlike any other.