Tsubasa Kajitani defeated Emilia Migliacccio in a playoff to win the Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Saturday.
The 17-year-old from Japan made a 5-foot par putt on the first extra hole to win the second edition of the prestigious event at Augusta National Golf Club.
Kajitani (72) and Miglicaccio (70) both finished at 1 over par.
In the playoff, on the par-4 18th, both players hit the fairway. Migliaccio, a 21-year-old Wake Forest senior, pushed her approach shot right of the right greenside bunker. She chipped her third shot in the bunker and splashed out to a few feet, leaving that for bogey.
Kajitani, meanwhile, hit her approach shot to the back right of the green, with the pin front, left. She rolled her lengthy birdie effort to a promising, but nervy distance, converting the par putt for victory.
"I can't describe it," a tearful Kajitani said through an interpreter.
A playoff seemed unlikely for both Kajitani and Migliaccio.
Kajitani was in control of the event as several players faded on the second nine. She led by two shots, at 1 under, with two holes to play, only to double bogey the par-4 17th.
With Migliaccio in the clubhouse at 1 over, Kajitani needed to par the last to have a shot at a playoff, but, like Migliaccio before her in regulation, hit her tee shot into a left fairway bunker. And like Migliaccio before her, she laid up and made par from the fairway.
Migliaccio finished her round at 2:43 p.m. ET, well over an hour before the final group putted out. And what a round it was. Migliaccio made five birdies and three bogeys for one of only five sub-par scores on Saturday.
It was a par, however, that ultimately determined her spot in the playoff. As mentioned, Migliaccio had to get up and down from the fairway to secure par at the last. And, while she has stated no plans abandon her amateur status, she professionally wedged to a couple of feet for the save.
Pride, it seemed, was the par’s reward. She posted 1 over par, two shots off the lead at the time and with four players ahead of her and still on the course. Migliaccio hugged her mom, who served as her caddie, and smiled, as she often does, at her impressive performance.
"I did everything I could even though it wasn't what I wanted," Migliaccio said after her playoff defeat, "but I did my best and that's all I can ask for."
She had no designs on continuing her day, but those in front of her steadily slid back.
Aside from Kajitani, there was, most notably, Rose Zhang. The overnight co-leader, so steady and stoic, tied for the lead at 1 under par, pull-hooked her tee shot on the par-5 13th and never found the ball. She re-teed and made triple-bogey 8 to fall to 2 over.
Karen Fredgaard, a 21-year-old Houston sophomore, also at tied for the lead at 1 under, found Rae’s Creek at the par-5 15th and made double bogey.
Emma Spitz, a 20-year-old UCLA sophomore, at even par, bogeyed the 17th.
Suddenly, and without warning, there was a 6-way tie for the lead at 1 over, and only one was done for the day (for the time being):
- Emilia Migliaccio – 1 over (70)
- Rachel Heck – 1 over through 17
- Emma Spitz – 1 over through 17
- Tsubasa Kajitani – 1 over through 17
- Karen Fredgaard – 1 over through 16
- Ingrid Lindblad – 1 over through 13
There were also a couple of notables at 2 over par, Zhang (through 13) and Oliva Mehaffey (through 15).
While Kajitani was able to match Migliaccio at the magic number, Heck, Spitz and Fredgaard bogeyed the 18th to miss out on a possible playoff.
Lindblad bogeyed Nos. 14 and 16, birdied the 17th, but couldn’t birdie 18. It equaled a 2-over finish.
Mehaffey couldn’t get any birdie putts to fall down the stretch and, like many before her, wrapped her day with a bogey.
Zhang was the final player who had a chance to join the playoff. She followed her triple bogey at 13 with a birdie at 14, to get back to 1 over. She then fell one off the pace with a bogey at 17 and needed birdie at the last to tie. She missed from 12 feet.
What was a two-person duel in the inaugural event was a international free-for-all in the second.
There were college stars galore, freshman to fifth-year seniors, All-Americans, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, players from Austria and Sweden and Denmark and Northern Ireland.
And, ultimately, it was a 17-year-old from Japan who finished on top. A 17-year-old who overcame a shocking double bogey to twice par the 18th hole for victory on the most famed course in America.
"I can't really imagine when I'm back to Japan," Kajitani said, "but hopefully everybody is happy and will enjoy and I'm looking forward to going back to Japan."